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Orie Melvin should be forced to write apology, DA's office says

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 1:12 p.m.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin poses for a picture in handcuffs after her sentencing in May 2013. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus ordered the photo taken and told Melvin to send the photo and an accompanying apology to all 500 judges in Pennsylvania. The Superior Court upheld the letter-writing, but ruled the letters didn't have to be on pictures of Melvin in handcuffs.
State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin leaves the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday, February 21, 2013, after being found guilty on six of seven campaign corruption charges. Her sister, Janine Orie, was found guilty on all six charges she faced. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will remain an “arrogant, power-abusing, convicted felon” if she doesn't fulfill her sentence and write apologies to judges and former employees, an Allegheny County deputy district attorney argued before the state Superior Court on Tuesday.

The appellate court last week issued a temporary stay of the portion of Melvin's sentence ordering her to send letters of apology to her former staff and sitting judges — accompanied by a picture of herself in handcuffs — while it considers whether Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus gave her an illegal sentence. Nauhaus also sentenced the former jurist to serve three years of house arrest and two years on probation and to work at a soup kitchen three days a week.

Her attorneys, Dan Brier and Pat Casey, did not return calls for comment.

Melvin, 57, of Marshall contends the apology part of her sentence requires her to incriminate herself. According to Melvin's motion for an emergency stay, Nauhaus plans to schedule a probation violation hearing because she failed to send the apology letters.

In a maritime-themed response, Deputy District Attorney Michael W. Streily argued that Melvin — whom a jury convicted of using judicial staff to run her election campaigns in 2003 and 2009 — “launched the proverbial ship” by issuing an apology in court. Streily said sending letters of apology “is asking nothing more than to add another port of call to the appellant's rehabilitative journey.”

Melvin isn't being forced to make an admission of guilt, only to write onto the photograph the words she spoke in court, Streily said.

“She will suffer no injury if she complies with Judge Nauhaus' directive,” he said.

Melvin, he said, “was the captain of the ship, which was her judicial chambers. That ship sank, and a lot of people were injured because of appellant's criminal conduct. The agency for which Joan Orie Melvin worked has had its reputation tarnished.”

Melvin is one of three Orie sisters convicted in Allegheny County for using political office for personal gain.

A jury convicted former state Sen. Jane Orie, 52, of McCandless in March 2012 of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services. She is serving 2 12 to 10 years in prison. A third sister, Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless, is serving one year of house arrest for her role in her sisters' schemes.

The family has accused District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., a Democrat, of going after the Republican family because of political differences. Zappala, who could not be reached for comment, has denied that claim.

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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