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Judge: Joan Orie Melvin is 'cherry picking' her sentence requirements

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 3:48 p.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Convicted state Supreme Court justice Joan Orie Melvin
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Joan Orie Melvin (center) leaves the Frick Building October 15, 2013 following a hearing before Judge Lester G. Nauhaus.

A clearly frustrated Alle­gheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus chastised former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her lawyer on Tuesday, accusing her of “cherry-picking” portions of her sentence with which to comply.

The judge could not revoke her house arrest because he awaits a decision from state Superior Court.

Nauhaus accused Melvin, 57, of Marshall of ignoring his request to write letters of apology and failing to pay fines. He repeatedly yelled at her Scranton attorney, Patrick Casey, because he asked an appeals court to stay part of her sentence before filing a motion with Nauhaus.

“There were various aspects of the sentence, because I believe there were several issues that had to be addressed by the defendant,” Nauhaus said. “She is choosing which part of the sentence they wanted to comply with and which part of the sentence they didn't want to comply with. ... You don't get that choice, as far as I'm concerned.”

In May, he sentenced Melvin to three years of house arrest, two years of probation and work at a soup kitchen three days a week — terms she is fulfilling, he said.

But she did not write apology letters to her staff and nearly 500 judges across Pennsylvania, on a photograph of herself in handcuffs as Nauhaus directed. He accused her of not paying fines, restitution and court costs.

Casey said Melvin has paid $127,000 she owed as of Tuesday afternoon. He said he advised Melvin not to write the apologies because it requires her to incriminate herself while appealing a conviction of using her judicial staff to run campaigns.

“We are asserting her constitutional rights,” Casey said.

Superior Court this month agreed to delay the letter-writing requirement while it decides whether that is legal. Nauhaus said he expects a court decision this month.

He lashed out at Casey for crying foul to the appellate court: “Had you come to me, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. My problem, quite frankly ... is how you just decided you were going to do it your way.”

Casey said he told the judge what he intended to do when Nauhaus sentenced Melvin on May 14.

“You didn't file anything, Mr. Casey,” the judge said, forcing Casey to read the law that requires a written filing. “As far as I'm concerned, that was just a throwaway.”

Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus said nothing during the hearing or afterward.

In a response to Melvin's request to Superior Court, Deputy District Attorney Michael W. Streily wrote that she apologized in court and isn't asked to admit guilt — only to write on the photograph what she spoke.

Melvin is one of three sisters convicted of using political office for personal gain.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie, 52, of McCandless is serving a prison sentence for forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services. Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless, a former Melvin staffer, is serving one year of house arrest for her role in her sisters' schemes.

Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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