Heyl: Plain, Jane? You're not the victim

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

Good for Jane Orie. The former state senator appears to have embarked on a post-prison career at which she seems capable of excelling.

But can she earn a respectable living being a permanent self-perceived victim?

I don't mean to rain on the McCandless Republican's probationary parade that began in February when she marched away from the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs sans baton. But at 52, it's unlikely she can support herself until retirement merely by playing the casualty of conspiratorial circumstances.

Orie did just that in an interview that WTAE-TV that aired on Monday. Her first public comments since her release were devoid of contrition for the conviction on corruption charges that put her behind bars for 20 months.

Instead, an oft-teary Orie continued to assert her innocence. Although not mentioning names, she again insinuated her jail time was the result of a political vendetta against her by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and his family.

“I think politics is a dirty, dirty sport,” said Orie, who appeared to enjoy her 15 years in the muck until her forced resignation. “When you take stances that are not consistent with that good-old-boys network, you get a target on your back.”

Unfortunately for Orie, those comments are better suited for a different part of the space-time continuum than she occupies. The victim card was easier to play before jurors convicted her of 14 charges that included using state-paid staff to perform campaign work and forging documents.

Even if political foes initially targeted Orie, it's safe to assume no member of the good-old-boys network that she's quick to blame for her woes was on the jury. Her attorneys wouldn't have allowed any of them to be seated.

A telling moment in the interview occurred when the reporter asked Orie whether she used her Senate staff to perform campaign work on behalf of her or her sister, former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. (Melvin was convicted a year ago of using her Superior Court staff and her sister's staff in two campaigns for Supreme Court.)

Looking as though someone had just snatched her purse, Orie responded: “I was found not guilty of doing anything on my sister's (behalf) ... That's the irony of this.”

She didn't directly address whether she used her campaign staff to aid her campaign. Most likely that's because the jury decided two years ago that she did.

Discussing her future — besides reporting to a probation officer for the next decade — Orie vowed: “I'll do everything I can to fight to restore the name my mom and dad earned.”

It's sad. The self-perceived victim is pledging to climb into the boxing ring, oblivious to the knockout punch delivered against her long ago.

Sadder still, she inflicted the blow.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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