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Judge says he'll leave parole decision for former state Senator Orie up to state officials

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 1:21 p.m.
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office filed a 105-page rebuttal on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, to former state Sen. Jane Orie’s appeal that seeks to overturn her conviction on corruption charges.

An Allegheny County judge says he'd like former state Sen. Jane Orie to get out of prison in 2014 but state officials will determine when to parole her.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning told the Tribune-Review on Thursday that Orie could be eligible for release in February, based on a program that can reduce sentences for inmates with no history of violent behavior.

Her case is scheduled for review in October, said Kimberly A. Barkley, secretary for the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, which sought Manning's recommendation for Orie's release date.

Manning in June sentenced Orie to 2 12 to 10 years in prison for using legislative staff to perform campaign work and trying to cover up that scheme.

In a letter to board Chairman Michael C. Potteiger, the judge said the decision rests with that office but he expects Orie to leave prison when her minimum sentence ends, “absent misconduct in the institution.”

“As I do in most cases, I defer to the Board of Probation and Parole in the exercise of your discretion in determining when parole is appropriate,” he wrote.

Manning's letter said that when he sentenced Orie, he took into consideration the Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive, which can reduce sentences for nonviolent inmates who were not convicted of violent or certain drug crimes. She could serve 22 months and 15 days of her 30-month minimum.

Orie, 51, R-McCandless, the former Senate majority whip, is incarcerated in the all-female state prison in Cambridge Springs, Crawford County. Her first trial in March 2011 ended in a mistrial when she introduced fraudulent evidence. A jury in March 2012 convicted her of 14 crimes.

In a separate trial, Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus this month sentenced Orie's sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, 57, of Marshall to three years of house arrest and two years of probation for using her Superior Court office to campaign for Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009.

He ordered the former jurist to pay $128,000 in fines and costs, apologize to her family and autograph a picture of herself in handcuffs that was to be sent to all 500 judges in the state.

Nauhaus sentenced a third sister, Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless, to one year of house arrest and two years of probation for ordering judicial staffers to work on Melvin's campaign.

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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