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PA Supreme Court Says No to Orie; Former Sen. Promises Fed Appeal

Former state senator Jane Orie promised Wednesday to file a federal court appeal now that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge of her campaign corruption conviction and prison sentence.

"I have always been known to be a fighter — and I fight for what I believe in and in what is right," Orie said in an emailed statement. "My case is by no means over, and I will aggressively pursue my appeal in federal court."

Orie, who turns 53 on Thursday, was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 2 1/2 to 10 years in prison. She was released from prison in February after completing 75 percent of her minimum sentence because she's a non-violent offender deemed unlikely to commit future crimes.

Orie was convicted of using her state-paid Senate staff to run her re-election campaigns for about a decade until the scandal forced her from office. She was also convicted of introducing forged defense documents during her first trial in 2011, resulting in a mistrial.

Orie hoped to overturn a 76-page Superior Court decision issued in March upholding her conviction and sentence. That court rejected 10 issues Orie raised, including her claim that Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning improperly declared a mistrial when the forged documents were discovered. Orie argued the second trial at which she was convicted amounted to double jeopardy.

Allegheny County prosecutors declined comment on the Supreme Court's refusal.

After that decision, Orie's defense attorney William Costopoulos said the appeal still mattered to Orie because "it would go a long way to restoring something that is very important to her, her reputation," Costopoulos said. He expects to file a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court appeal within a month.

Orie's conviction marked the beginning of the end of the conservative Republican family's influence in western Pennsylvania.

Orie was acquitted of charges that she also made her staff to work on the 2003 and 2009 Supreme Court campaigns of her sister, Joan Orie Melvin, who was then a Superior Court judge. But Melvin, 58, was later charged, tried and convicted separately of conspiring with Orie to have the Senate staffers work on Melvin's judicial campaigns.

Melvin was also convicted last year of misusing her Superior Court staff during the same campaigns. A third sister, Janine Orie, who worked as Melvin's court aide, was also convicted.

Melvin has been removed from the Supreme Court seat she won in 2009. Her conviction and most of her sentence, including three years' house arrest and $55,000 in fines, was upheld by the Superior Court last month.

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