Judge orders Orie to pay $180K in restitution from corruption conviction

| Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 2:52 p.m.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie must pay $180,457 in restitution and damages stemming from her 14 corruption convictions, and her state pension will help pay the bill, an Allegheny County judge ruled on Tuesday.

Orie, 50, of McCandless is serving a 2 12- to 10-year prison sentence for using her state-paid staff for campaign work and knowingly introducing forged documents at an earlier trial. The restitution is less than a tenth what prosecutors sought.

“It seems like a reasonable amount to compensate the public for what Sen. Orie did while at the same time not being outrageously expensive,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff, who has followed the case. “It seems to be certainly a sufficiently severe penalty.”

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning delayed imposing the financial penalties while he reviewed arguments from both sides. The judge rejected the prosecution's argument that Orie could be liable for as much as $2 million.

“It is impossible to conclude from the evidence, as the commonwealth contends, that every single dollar raised by the defendant between 2001 and 2009 was the result of her violations of the Ethics Act, and this court cannot base the imposition of this additional penalty on such speculative evidence,” Manning wrote.

Manning ordered $23,269.74 in restitution, $46,537.48 in damages and $110,650 for the legal costs the Senate Republican Caucus incurred for its use of outside counsel to represent Orie during the initial stages of the investigation. The judge also imposed court costs, which have not been calculated.

Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, did not return a call for comment. He argued that Orie should not be liable for any money the Senate Republican Caucus spent, which the judge disagreed with.

The judge ordered that the $89,670.18 in Orie's state pension account be forfeited and applied to her debt to taxpayers. After her release from prison, Orie must make payments of $500 per month until the remaining balance is paid.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said in a statement that the 13-page opinion was well-reasoned and “clearly recognizes the financial damage done by this individual.”

“It is a shame that despite the fact that the General Assembly of Pennsylvania has never sought taxpayer approval to pay for attorney fees to defend corrupt politicians, these fees are routinely paid and the citizens of this commonwealth are twice victimized upon conviction of corrupt politicians unless restitution is had,” Zappala said.

Other convicted politicians have high restitution bills.

A judge ordered former state House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, to pay $1 million in restitution for his role in a scheme to use public resources for campaign purposes.

Former state Rep. Mike Veon has to pay at least $1.9 million.

Orie is at a women's prison at Cambridge Springs in Crawford County, a dorm-style prison for less-violent inmates. She transferred from the women's prison at Muncy, Lycoming County, on June 26.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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