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Former staffer tells of work to boost Jane Orie's sister's bid for court

A former staffer for state Sen. Jane Orie said on Tuesday that he kept track of dozens of campaign donations during Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's election bid for the high court.

Josh Dott, 24, who worked for Orie as a state-paid legislative staffer, testified on the 11th day of the corruption retrial for his former boss that others directed him to keep track of Melvin's 2009 campaign donations in a database while he was on state time. Dott said he took orders from the senator, her former chief of staff Jamie Pavlot and the senator's sister, Janine Orie, who worked as an aide to Melvin.

Dott said he organized a fundraiser and put out yard signs for Melvin at the direction of Janine Orie.

"Why would you take directives from her?" Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus asked.

"The atmosphere in the office was, if Janine tells you to do something, it's just like the senator telling you to do something," said Dott, who estimated he spent up to 30 percent of his workday doing political work.

Jane Orie, 50, a McCandless Republican, is charged with directing her state-paid staff to do campaign work for her and Melvin, 55, of Marshall, who is not charged but is under investigation. Janine Orie, 57, is charged with ordering both the senator's and the justice's staffers to do political work on state time. Her trial has not yet been scheduled.

Orie, who has maintained her innocence, scribbled notes to her attorney, William Costopoulos, during Dott's testimony.

The senator is charged with 26 counts from two cases. Her first trial ended in a mistrial last March after Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning found that Orie's defense introduced forged documents as evidence. Prosecutors added charges of forgery against Orie.

Prosecutors yesterday began reading Orie's testimony from her first trial to the jury. The move is part of an attempt to prove that Orie committed perjury when she testified in her defense last March. Costopoulos has not said whether Orie will again take the stand to testify.

The prosecution is expected to finish its part of the case by the end of the week.

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