Jack Orie, brother of state senator, faces contempt charges
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The brother of state Sen. Jane Orie will appear before a judge Friday to show why he shouldn't be held in contempt of court for violation of a Dec. 15 gag order prohibiting parties in his sister's corruption trial from speaking about it publicly.
Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning ordered Jack Orie, a 60-year-old lawyer from McCandless, to appear before him at 10:30 a.m.
The order pertains to a story in Tuesday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in which Mr. Orie accused the district attorney's office of falsifying documents that led to a mistrial last week in the case against Ms. Orie and her sister, Janine, an aide to another sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
Judge Manning halted the trial during jury deliberations after declaring that several documents introduced by the defense had been doctored.
The documents purport to show the signature of Jamie Pavlot, Jane Orie's former chief of staff, verifying that she oversaw responsibilities in the senator's legislative office. The defense team presented the documents into evidence on Feb. 28, during Ms. Orie's testimony. Mr. Orie said the defense gave the papers to the prosecution that evening and got them back 18 hours later. During that time, he said, someone on the prosecution team altered them "because they knew they were going to lose."
The district attorney's office did not respond directly to the accusation but released a copy of a search warrant, prepared on Tuesday and executed Wednesday, to take custody of dozens of defense exhibits in the Orie case.
An affidavit written by Lyle Graber, a detective with the district attorney's office, indicates that prosecutors are investigating the defense for tampering with evidence and that the U.S. Secret Service will examine the documents.
Detective Graber asked that the warrant be granted in part because Jane Orie already has been charged with evidence tampering as part of the corruption case against her. In the fall of 2009, he said, she concealed or destroyed campaign-related documents from her legislative office after learning that she was under investigation.
Detective Graber said that the prosecution also re-interviewed several witnesses after the mistrial, including Ms. Pavlot, to confirm their trial testimony that they had never before seen handwritten notations on dozens of printouts of e-mails, letters and memos introduced by the defense. Jane Orie testified that she wrote directives by hand on those documents on the day they went out to staffers, but investigators believe that a Secret Service laboratory analysis can show that the notes were written long after the date of the correspondence.
The district attorney's staff first grew suspicious on March 3, Detective Graber wrote, while the prosecution was organizing the defense exhibits and discovered that two of Ms. Pavlot's signatures on different documents appeared identical. They also noticed that the overlapping original signature of another employee on one of the exhibits accounted for the "previously unexplained" marks over the "P" in Ms. Pavlot's signature in the other exhibit.
In addition, Detective Graber said that Ms. Pavlot called him on March 5, after the apparent cut-and-paste forgeries appeared on the websites of various news outlets, to tell him that one of the documents also showed an incorrect address for Jane Orie's office on McKnight Road.
"Pavlot offered this information as further proof that she had not authored this or other documents as alleged by the defense," the affidavit says.
Jack Orie said Wednesday that he hadn't seen the search warrant. But he said it was the prosecution, not the defense, that doctored the documents and questioned why the district attorney's office and the judge didn't notice the discrepancies before the exhibits were introduced into evidence.
As for the gag order, Mr. Orie said he was never served with the Dec. 15 directive and is not subject to it because he is not party to the case. "I'm not a witness, I'm not a lawyer in the case," he said. "I'm just an older brother."
First Published March 10, 2011 12:00 am