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Orie maintains innocence, 'unequivocally' denies forging records

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 11:00 p.m.
Phillip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
State Sen. Jane Orie leaves the Allegheny County Courthouse on Monday, March 26, 2012, after being found guilty of seven felonies and seven misdemeanors.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie broke her public silence by telling a reporter she is innocent of the corruption charges that sent her to prison.

Orie, 52, a McCandless Republican, gave an interview to WTAE-TV that aired Monday. Orie has turned down numerous interview requests from the Tribune-Review.

Orie specifically addressed forgery charges that prompted a mistrial in her first case and resulted in forgery convictions in a second trial.

“One of the forgeries was called so blatant a forgery that Ray Charles, a dead blind man, could see,” Orie said. “Unequivocally no, I didn't commit those forgeries. Whoever did those forgeries either did it because they thought they were helping me, or the more scarier thought is they did it to really hurt me.”

State prison officials released Orie on Feb. 9 once she served about 75 percent of her 2½- to 10-year prison sentence for using her state-paid staff for campaign work and other charges.

“I think politics is a dirty, dirty sport ... and when you take stances that are not consistent with that good old boy network, you get a target on your back,” Orie said.

An Allegheny County jury convicted Orie of 14 charges stemming from allegations she used her staffers to help churn out political campaign victories and knowingly introduced forged documents in her first trial.

“A jury spoke to this matter following a thorough and very public airing of the evidence. Since that time, state Superior Court summarily dismissed any claims to the contrary,” said Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. “To publish this defendant's misstatements of the evidence in this case at this time is offensive to the jury process.”

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning sentenced her in June 2012. She was paroled under an early-release program for nonviolent, first-time offenders who show good behavior. The parole board cited her motivation for success and positive behavior in granting her release.

Orie said her fellow inmates called her “senator.”

Her sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, 58, of Marshall, was convicted a year ago of six counts for using her Superior Court staff and the legislative staff of the senator to run campaigns for Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. That jury found another sister and Melvin's former administrative assistant, Janine Orie, 59, of McCandless guilty on six counts. Neither got prison sentences.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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