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Former Sen. Jane Orie to be released from prison early

| Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, 5:24 p.m.

Things are looking up for the embattled Orie family.

Within a week after a judge stayed a sentence of house arrest for former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole on Thursday announced that former state Sen. Jane Orie will be released from prison early.

Orie, 52, of McCandless, the former Senate majority whip convicted of using her legislative staff to perform campaign work and later trying to cover up her scheme, is serving 2½ to 10 years but could be released from state prison in Crawford County as early as Feb. 9.

The board cited a positive recommendation from the Department of Corrections, Orie's development of a parole release plan, her “positive institutional behavior” and her demonstration of a “motivation for success.”

Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., declined to comment. Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, could not be reached.

“Jane is a strong woman of faith,” Melvin, her sister, said in statement sent by email. “She has always maintained that it is an honor and privilege to serve those in need. While incarceration might be something that is meant to be endured, not for Jane, it was another place to make a positive difference.”

For instance, Melvin said, her sister established a program to prepare women to re-enter society when they are released from prison and helped other prisoners earn their GEDs.

Orie's first trial in March 2011 ended in a mistrial when she introduced fraudulent evidence. Following a jury trial in March 2012, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning sent Orie to the all-female correctional facility, where she has been inmate OS9360 for the last 17 months. She became eligible for release based on a program that can reduce sentences for inmates with no history of violent behavior.

“She shouldn't have had to serve the sentence in the first place,” said Greg Melvin, her brother-in-law.

Before her release, Orie must tell the parole board where she plans to live, said spokeswoman Sherry Tate. On her release, Orie will be assigned a parole officer and will be subject to random drug and alcohol tests, Tate said. The exact date of her release will not be made public beforehand.

A jury in May convicted Joan Orie Melvin, 57, of Marshall of using her Superior Court staff and resources to campaign for a seat on the state's highest court in 2003 and 2009. Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus last week suspended her sentence of house arrest after the Superior Court ruled that she did not have to write letters of apology to every judge in Pennsylvania on black-and-white photos of herself posing in handcuffs.

A jury convicted Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless of helping her sisters commit their crimes. Her attorney withdrew a request to have her sentence stayed.

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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