Pa. taxpayers paid $33,475 for staffers to work on Melvin's campaigns, accountant testifies
Pennsylvania taxpayers shelled out $33,475 to four senatorial and two judicial staffers to work on state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's 2003 and 2009 judicial campaigns, a forensic accountant for Allegheny County prosecutors said Thursday.
Jackelyn Weibel, a District Attorney's detective and certified fraud examiner, told jurors she tried to be “extremely conservative” in determining how much money the staffers from former Sen. Jane Orie's office and Melvin's chambers were paid to work on the judge's campaigns.
Weibel said taxpayers paid $27,700 in 2003 and $5,800 in 2009 for the political work.
Weibel sat in the back row of the courtroom for the past nine days of the trial before Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus and said she based her calculations on financial documents and witness testimony. She left out employees whose time she could not calculate.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Daniel T. Brier repeatedly asked Weibel if she tried to corroborate their testimony, whether she checked with the law offices or other organizations Melvin's former staffers said they visited with the judge, or if she took into consideration the time former staffers spent working after regular business hours or on the weekend.
Weibel repeatedly answered “no.”
Weibel was the last of 24 witnesses prosecutors called before resting their case against Melvin, 56, of Marshall and her sister Janine Orie, 58, of McCandless. They 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.
The Supreme Court suspended Melvin on May 18, and the state Court of Judicial Discipline halted her $195,309 annual salary in August.
After Nauhaus dismissed the jury for the day, attorneys asked Nauhaus to dismiss one count against Janine Orie and all counts against Melvin, claiming the prosecution did not provide enough evidence. Nauhaus refused.
The defense on Friday plans to call retired state Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Del Sole, and representatives from the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System, the Department of State, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and Bulldog Office Supplies.
Janine Orie initially went to trial in a joint case with their sister Jane Orie, but the case ended in a mistrial when prosecutors accused Jane Orie of submitting falsified documents. 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 prison.
Weibel testified at Jane Orie's trial that Orie stole about $34,000 in services by having her staff perform campaign work on state time and saved an additional $340,000 by using her legislative staff for campaign tasks.
Villanova University law professor Anne Poulin said the figures in Melvin's case are “notable, both for the fact that it isn't a huge amount and because the 2003 number is so much greater than the 2009 number.”
“The jury could certainly find her guilty based on this amount,” Poulin said. “The question is whether they will if they think it's insignificant.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
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.
- NFL notebook: Seahawks activate cornerback Lane
- Michigan State humbles Penn State in finale
- Central Catholic wins 5th WPIAL football title
- Offense continues to click as Panthers hold off Kent State, 85-76
- Penguins’ Johnston agrees with Dubinsky suspension
- New scenery for 1st-year Riverview boys basketball coach Sapotichne
- Testing of Tut’s tomb hints at hidden chamber
- Penn State women’s soccer team tops WVU, advances to College Cup
- South Fayette VFW sending care packages overseas
- Clairton captures 12th WPIAL football championship
- Steelers notebook: Brown downplays possible matchup against Seahawks’ Sherman