Former Melvin campaign workers say they had little or no contact with state workers
A key defense witness in state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin's corruption trial clashed with the lead prosecutor on Monday over allegations of illegal campaign work.
Michael Long, who headed Commonwealth Strategic Solutions, told the jury that Melvin's campaign hired his firm to run her 2009 campaign for the high court and that he had little, if any, contact with her judicial staffers.
“Who did your staff email, in regards to political questionnaires?” Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus asked.
“No one does questionnaires but me; never once,” Long said. “I never spoke to or emailed anyone in the judge's chambers about questionnaires.
“I don't know those people. I didn't know their names until I read them in the paper. It never happened. I don't know what else I can say.”
Long testified for about three hours on the 12th day of the trial. Melvin, 56, of Marshall, and her sister, Janine Orie, 58, of McCandless, are charged with using the justice's Superior Court employees and equipment for Supreme Court campaigns in 2003 and 2009. Janine Orie was a secretary for Melvin.
When Claus confronted Long with emails that prosecutors say contained political directives from Janine Orie, Long replied: “I wasn't directed by Janine to do anything, ever. Keep this in focus, because sometimes I think we lose focus. This was 365-day campaign. Two emails is not a lot.”
Melvin, wearing a dark blue suit, showed little emotion but nodded in agreement during parts of Long's testimony. The crowd that filled the courtroom during the first few days of the trial has dwindled, and many empty seats remained during the second full day of Melvin's defense.
Melvin's husband, Greg Melvin, watched the trial and talked to his wife during at least one break.
Long was one of five defense witnesses who testified, four of whom were paid by Melvin's campaign to do political work.
If any judicial or senatorial staffers did political work, it was insignificant and “wasn't critical to the campaign,” Long said.
“I was the person who ran the campaign,” he said.
Staffers for Melvin and another sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, testified for the prosecution that they helped put together at least one television ad for Melvin.
John Brabender, an owner of the consulting firm Brabender Cox, testified for the defense that he didn't recall any help from either Melvin's staff or the senator's when his company put together a campaign commercial in 2003.
A jury last year convicted Jane Orie of similar charges. She is serving a prison sentence of 21⁄2 to 10 years.
Melvin's attorneys will not say whether the suspended justice will take the witness stand. They expect to conclude their case by the end of the week.
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.
- Pirates hit 3 HRs in rout of Red Sox
- Steelers defense a long way from ‘greatest of all time’
- Penguins’ Johnston eager to open 1st camp
- Police chase ends with shooting in Bell Township; suspect wounded
- Starkey: Two amazing Pirates fans
- Donegal Township families fight driller to get clean water
- Number of jobs in high-tech industry outpace workers in Pittsburgh, nation
- Ohio racino draws crowd on opening day
- Video posted online captures Wilkinsburg child’s injuries
- Pirates notebook: Castillo’s debut underscores challenges in Cuban market
- Steelers remain confident in ground game