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Orie aide's testimony on emails assailed

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Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 12:26 p.m.
 

Defense attorneys grilled former state Sen. Jane Orie's chief of staff on Tuesday about dozens of email exchanges and events from more than three years ago on the third day of the public corruption trial for suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

Attorney Daniel T. Brier sought to cast doubt on Jamie Pavlot's testimony that Melvin and Orie told her by phone to remove campaign-related files from a box Pavlot took from Orie's McKnight Road office.

Pavlot did not tell District Attorney's investigators about the three-way phone call until last year — even after she met with them numerous times, testified before a grand jury and at the senator's preliminary hearings and trials in 2010 and 2011, Brier said.

Pavlot initially told investigators she took the boxes so she could work from home, Brier said.

“You never once testified that my client and her sister called you and told you to take documents out of those files,” he said.

Pavlot said she did not remember at the time because she was nervous.

“I was being questioned about numerous things,” she said.

Pavlot got immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against the sisters.

Pavlot's five hours of testimony on her second day on the stand addressed the heart of the prosecution's public corruption charges against Melvin, 56, of Marshall and a third sister, former court staffer Janine Orie, 58, of McCandless. Prosecutors say Melvin and Janine Orie used Jane Orie's legislative office and Melvin's then-Superior Court office to campaign for a seat for Melvin on the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009.

Both pleaded not guilty. The high court suspended Melvin on May 18 and the state Court of Judicial Discipline halted her $195,309 annual salary in August. The trial before Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus began on Friday. Janine Orie initially went to trial in a joint case with Jane Orie, but the case ended in a mistrial when prosecutors accused Jane Orie of submitting falsified documents to the court. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. retried Jane Orie separately, and a jury convicted her in March on 14 counts. She is serving 2 1 / 2 to 10 years in the state prison in Cambridge Springs.

Nauhaus on Tuesday appeared agitated at Brier's line of questioning and Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus objected more than a dozen times.

Melvin jotted notes on a legal pad throughout the day.

Three jurors yawned, and one juror appeared to doze as Janine Orie's attorney James DePasquale questioned Pavlot for two hours about dozens of email exchanges prosecutors submitted into evidence. DePasquale asked Pavlot to estimate the time she spent reading the emails and performing tasks they directed. Nauhaus ended the day's testimony before Pavlot could give a tally of the time she spent on those tasks.

On Wednesday, Pavlot is expected briefly to take the stand again. Claus said he plans to call to the witness stand Sharon Cochran and Jason Davidek, two former legislative staffers in Jane Orie's office, by Wednesday afternoon.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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