Orie Verdict Does Not End The Saga
Under Pennsylvania law, a criminal defendant is not fully convicted until they go through the sentencing phase of the trial, and that means State Senator Jane Orie can remain in office for more than a month. The Republican from McCandless was convicted Monday on 14 counts of misusing her state-paid staff for campaign work and forging documents in an effort to cover up her guilt. She will be under electronically-monitored home arrest until her sentencing May 21.
Orie is expected to resign just before her sentencing. After sentencing she will most likely lose her state pension and healthcare. Five of the 14 convictions are for felonies.
Franklin and Marshall political science professor Terry Madonna says it is surprising to him that this type of campaign work was being done in Orie's senate office in 2009, which is when the ex-intern Jennifer Knapp Rioja went to the Allegheny County District Attorney's office with her accusations.
Madonna said the issue of state employees doing campaign work was not a problem decades ago but became much more prevalent in the last 20 years. However, he said it has become less of an issue since the string of recent corruption convictions.
"2009 had been three years after the first of the Bonusgate … convictions," said Madonna. "So why, in 2009, would someone replicate what already had been brought to light, around which there was enormous publicity?"
Orie's defense lawyer William Costopoulos hinted that he might launch an appeal. Madonna said it is very unlikely such an appeal would be successful.
Senator Orie was acquitted of charges she directed her staff to work for the state Supreme Court campaign of her sister, Justice Joan Orie Melvin. That portion of the jury's verdict raises questions about whether Justice Melvin will be charged.
"There is some kind of ongoing investigation, we've been told, but I think it makes it much less likely charges will be brought," said Madonna.
The same grand jury that recommended charges against the senator sent Melvin a target letter and subpoena in December.