Orie story has reality TV written all over it

| Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

“H ere's the story: Three girls named Orie …”

Someone should pitch this idea to Hollywood.

The backstory: A trio of successful sisters have upwardly mobile political careers, with two of them holding important elected offices and the third assisting her siblings behind the scenes. Then their vertical trajectory is interrupted by their own inexcusable avarice, which gets them convicted of career-killing, campaign-related misdeeds.

Thanks to a corrections official with a diabolical sense of humor, they end up in the same prison, then are assigned by the warden to share a cell block in a Brady-girls-gone-bad scenario. Think Marcia, Jan and Cindy in matching jumpsuits.

If you think that's an absurd idea for a TV program, then you obviously never have seen MTV's “Catfish.” But that's not the point. The sisters-in-prison concept easily could become an entertaining, though admittedly surreal, reality show filmed in Pennsylvania.

State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin and her sister Janine Orie were convicted Thursday on charges related to the use of public employees for campaign purposes. Melvin was convicted on six of seven charges — including four felonies — and Janine Orie was convicted of all six charges she faced — including one felony. The felonies significantly increase their chances of prison time.

If they are imprisoned, they will have something new in common with their sister, Jane Orie, the former state Senate majority whip. She is serving a 2½- to 10-year sentence following her conviction last year on charges that included theft of services, conflict of interest, ethics violations and forgery.

The jury's decision on Thursday does more than conclude the stunning collapse of the Orie political empire that once wielded considerable influence in Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs. It presents an opportunity to ponder what might happen if the scandalous sisters get to replay their childhoods in a correctional environment — and what might happen in the first few episodes of the Orie show:


Jane helps her newly arrived sisters get acclimated to prison life by suggesting they take up a hobby to pass the time. In a related subplot, the convicted forger is apprehensive about how she will perform in the prison's upcoming calligraphy contest.


Joan requests a new cellmate after fighting with Janine over who gets the top bunk, but regrets the move when the warden moves her into a cell with a violent schizophrenic named Bertha.


Jane tries to hide the fact she accidentally ripped Joan's former judicial robe that Joan smuggled into prison to remind her of happier times. When the contrite Jane finally admits what she did, Joan scolds, “You, of all people, should know that the cover-up is worse than the crime.”


Hours before the deadline for Joan to file her conviction appeal, Jane accidentally spills soda all over it. The cliffhanger ending involves a prison power failure that prevents the three sisters from using their powerful hair dryers to desiccate the soggy document.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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