State Sen. Jane Orie charged with forgery, perjury
State Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, leaves with her brother, Jack Orie, after her arraignment Monday on new charges.
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State Sen. Jane Orie was arrested late Monday, nearly six months after a mistrial that was caused by the introduction of forged documents in her criminal trial, and has been charged with 16 new counts, including felony perjury, tampering with evidence, forgery and obstruction.
Ms. Orie, R-McCandless, was arraigned and released. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7.
She had no comment.
The new charges, laid out in a 58-page affidavit of probable cause, include potentially damning evidence that Ms. Orie is the person responsible for the doctored documents that led to her mistrial in March.
She originally was charged with using her legislative staff and resources to do campaign work on state-funded time.
Detectives from the Allegheny County district attorney's office charge in the affidavit that someone using the username PASEN\jorie logged into the Senate Republican Caucus computer network at 12:34 a.m. July 2, 2010 -- after Ms. Orie had been criminally charged with misusing her legislative staff to campaign and two weeks before her preliminary hearing -- and scanned in what became defense exhibit No. 110.
That document purported to have the signature of the senator's chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot, on it. However, a review by the U.S. Secret Service showed that the signature had been copied and pasted from another document.
The affidavit said that the document scanned into the Senate computer network included a Senate letterhead but did not include the hand-written directive by Ms. Orie or Ms. Pavlot's underlined signature as they were included on the exhibit at trial.
The prosecution claims that Ms. Orie "orchestrated the forgeries in support of her defense." The affidavit charges that a third cut-and-pasted signature of Ms. Pavlot's was found in the computer network, although it was not entered into evidence.
It said in the affidavit that multiple former staffers, who were questioned during the trial and afterward, claimed the senator rarely used handwritten notes. Further, the district attorney charges in the complaint that the notes were self-serving because the senator used them to admonish against "political and/or campaign-related work during the legislative work day and/or utilizing legislative resources."
Ms. Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, could not be reached for comment.
Jack Orie, an attorney and the senator's brother, accompanied her to turn herself in Monday.
Mr. Orie said no one in the family knew of the new charges until a member of the news media called him on his cell phone seeking comment.
He delivered the news to Ms. Orie, who then called her attorney and arranged with the district attorney's office to turn herself in.
Mr. Orie said he, along with his sister, was floored by news of the charges, but he declined to comment on them specifically.
"She was crying. She was shocked," he said.
He said he was told that the district attorney's office had dispatched detectives to the North Hills to "look for Jane to arrest her." But in a deal, he arranged to drive her to Pittsburgh Municipal Court and that the district attorney's office agreed to not place her in handcuffs. He said that one detective attempted to handcuff her after she arrived at court but he did not when Mr. Orie told him of the agreement.
"I thought it was petty grandstanding by the district attorney's office," he said.
In laying out the new counts, the district attorney's office claims that Ms. Orie, even after she was under investigation and charged, continued to misuse her legislative staff.
Among the other allegations in the affidavit, the prosecution claims that Ms. Orie used office workers in Harrisburg to scan thousands of pages of documents into the computer to be used by the senator and her attorneys to defend her case.
Two women, Donna Kriner and Bonnie Schultz, told investigators that the senator brought to her Harrisburg office 10 to 20 large, plastic Rubbermaid "tubs" filled with documents, including district office personnel files.
Ms. Orie then asked the women to scan the documents into the Senate computer network, the affidavit said.
The work, according to the affidavit, was done between Nov. 16, 2009, and Aug. 20, 2010. Ms. Kriner estimated that had the work been completed all at one time, it would have taken her and Ms. Schultz about one week to complete.
Ms. Kriner also told investigators that because of the volume of materials, she had to request a second scanner from the Senate computer services department.
None of the documents were legislative, and once they were scanned, they were put back in the bins and returned to Mr. Costopoulos, the affidavit states.
The affidavit also charges that Ms. Schultz said she was directed by Ms. Orie and her previous defense attorneys, Jerry McDevitt and Mark Rush, "to begin researching and gathering information regarding any alleged involvement by members of the Zappala family in the Pennsylvania gaming industry as part of Orie's defense strategy."
During the early part of the case -- before she was charged -- Ms. Orie and her defense attorneys said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. was targeting her because she objected to the gaming industry coming into Pennsylvania and specifically to his family's role in it.
The most serious counts in the new complaint -- five counts of felony perjury -- do not refer to the doctored evidence.
They stem from testimony provided by Ms. Orie during the trial about the existence of a separate campaign office.
Staff members of Ms. Orie's testified during the trial that she opened a "subterfuge campaign office" across the street from her legislative offices on McKnight Road.
While there was a phone line, computers and fax machine in the office at Suite 303B in the Arcadia Center building, the office was really to "have the appearance of having a real campaign office," Ms. Pavlot testified.
But during the trial, Ms. Orie insisted that she did not have a separate campaign office across the street. Instead, she claimed that the office was behind her building and in the same complex as her legislative offices.
Related to that office space, the senator is charged in the complaint with failing to disclose on her campaign finance report that she received it for free as an in-kind contribution.
When word of the new charges got out, Jim Burn, chairman of the state and county Democratic Party, called on the Republican to step down.
"I understand her presumption of innocence, but I reiterate that I just don't see how she can effectively represent her constituents," he said. "She should do the selfless thing and step down."
Jim Roddey, the county Republican chairman, could not be reached for comment.
First Published August 30, 2011 12:00 am