Prosecutors expected to rest today in Melvin case
Allegheny County prosecutors expect to rest their corruption case on Thursday against state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, capping 10 days of testimony from two dozen witnesses.
The cross-examination of one prosecution witness Wednesday brought a smile to Melvin's face as she whispered something to defense attorney Dan Brier. He had just finished questioning Joanne Tsucalas, a professional fundraiser hired by the 2009 Melvin campaign.
Tsucalas, 61, of Philadelphia said she processed campaign checks and had minimal contact with state-paid Melvin staffers. She said she organized meet-and-greets for Melvin with law firms and when she organized a Melvin fundraiser, Tsucalas had the names of many potential political donors.
Melvin, 56, of Marshall and her sister Janine Orie, 58, of McCandless are charged with using judicial employees and equipment in Melvin's bid for the high court in 2003 and 2009. Both contend they are not guilty. Melvin's attorneys said they expect to begin their portion of the case Friday.
Prosecutors are attempting to prove that state-paid staffers, including Janine Orie, did much of the political work — including providing donor names to Tsucalas.
“These emails from Janine were a very incidental or small part of what you did for Judge Orie Melvin's campaign?” Brier asked.
“Yes,” said Tsucalas, who said she never met Janine Orie in person until Melvin's swearing-in ceremony in January 2010.
Brier showed the jury that at least one donor solicitation card instructed people to send check to Tsucalas' Philadelphia office, away from any state-paid staffers.
University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff said prosecutors sometimes call witnesses who benefit both sides during their part of the case to put that witness in the best possible light for the prosecution because the defense would likely call that witness, anyway.
“It may have been that the witness was a lot better in the office than she was on the stand,” said Burkoff, who is watching the case. “It's also true that the witness says things that benefit the defense as well as the state. We don't know who should be smiling until the case is over.”
Prosecution witness Tracy Kolich also said she had minimal contact with Melvin's state-paid staff. Kolich worked for a private company that Republicans hired to work on Melvin's campaign out of her Harrisburg campaign office. She said on cross-examination that she scheduled political events for Melvin and kept track of Melvin's political calendar.
“So there was an army of volunteers working across the state to get Joan elected?” Brier asked.
“Yes,” Kolich said.
“The first time it was suggested that (Janine Orie) acted like a campaign manager is when you met with the District Attorney's Office?” Brier asked.
“Yes,” Kolich said.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Giant Eagle Inc. appears to have settled ‘fuelperks!’ lawsuit
- Pirates sign Corey Hart to 1-year deal
- Police gather in Ligonier for Perryopolis officer’s funeral
- Rossi: Brawl for ADs between Pitt and WVU
- Analysis: Misunderstood Chryst served Pitt well
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Time is of essence for Pitt in finding football coach, athletic director
- 8 Western Pennsylvania hospitals penalized over infections
- Veteran tight end Miller’s blocking skill crucial to success to Steelers running game
- Review: No improper contact between Pa. Supreme Court justices, lawyers
- Penguins’ Maatta tests positive for mumps; Bortuzzo, Greiss negative