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'Slap!,' went the wet noodle: The Melvin sentence

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

No wonder Joan Orie Melvin was smiling as she left the Allegheny County Courthouse on Tuesday. You'd be smiling too if you had just escaped serving time in a state prison for your conviction on felony public corruption charges.

The ex-Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice, 58, a Republican, could have been sentenced to up to 25 years for using public resources to engage in politics. The prosecution sought a four-year sentence for Mrs. Melvin. But Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus, despite delivering a tongue-lashing, broke out the wet noodle to slap her wrist — three years of house arrest followed by two years of probation.

Oh, indeed, the judge also ordered her photo to be taken in handcuffs and letters of apology sent with it to every member of the state judiciary. But what's a little form-letter writing as you lounge on your couch in your jammies and watch “The Price Is Right” every day?

Melvin also must pay $55,000 in restitution and work three days a week at a soup kitchen.

In February, Melvin and her sister Janine were convicted on a total of 12 counts of theft, misapplication of public property and conspiracy. Janine was sentenced to a year of house arrest and two years of probation. (Prosecutors sought a 45-month sentence for the “linchpin” of this publicly financed boiler-room operation.) Another sister, Jane, the former state senator, is serving a 2 12-to-10-year prison term for her own public corruption. (Bet she's ticked.)

Joan Orie Melvin engaged in felonious activity with impunity. She did so in a climate of mass public corruption throughout commonwealth government. She's never taken responsibility for her crimes. And her family continues to allege persecution by her prosecutors. And she's sentenced to house arrest?

That's a gross miscarriage of justice.

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