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Jane Orie appeals convictions, asks for bail

| Monday, June 18, 2012, 5:00 p.m.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie wants out of prison on bail pending an appeal of her corruption convictions and said she deserves a new trial because the judge unfairly hamstrung her defense, her attorney wrote in court filings.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning has not ruled on either request and is considering how much restitution Orie should pay.

Orie, 50, of McCandless is serving a 2 12- to 10-year prison sentence for her 14 convictions related to using Senate staff for campaign work and for knowingly introducing forged documents during her first trial. An Allegheny County jury convicted her in March.

William Costopoulos, Orie's attorney who filed the requests on Friday, wrote that Orie is not a flight risk and that “it would be fundamentally unfair” for Orie to serve her sentence only to later have an appellate court overturn her convictions. He asked to have her sentenced reduced.

Prosecutors urged Manning to deny the bail request in a filing on Monday.

Costopoulos did not return a message for comment.

A Dauphin County judge last month denied a similar bail request for former House Speaker Bill DeWeese of Waynesburg, who is serving a prison sentence for convictions involving the use of public resources for campaigning.

Orie, a Republican who served in the Senate for 11 years, claims Manning erred in banning any references during her trial to gambling or to what she considered a family feud between the Ories and District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. She contends the charges were political because of her anti-gambling political stance. Zappala's family had ties to the gambling industry, but he has denied her allegations.

Mike Manko, Zappala's spokesman, declined to comment.

Orie claims that Manning should have disqualified Zappala's office from prosecuting the case because of his “personal animus” toward the former senator and her sister, Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

Melvin, 56, of Marshall is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next month on charges she directed her staff to do political work.

During Melvin's 2009 election bid, a campaign ad criticized the Judicial Conduct Board for ignoring the scandal of two Luzerne County judges accused of pocketing millions of dollars in kickbacks for sentencing juveniles to privately owned detention centers in Luzerne and Butler counties.

Gregory Zappala, the prosecutor's brother, co-owned the centers. He was not charged with wrongdoing.

“By precluding any mention of the feud between the Zappala and Orie families, this honorable court has had a chilling effect on the defense,” Costopoulos wrote.

Costopoulos wrote that the state's conflict of interest law is unconstitutionally vague and should be thrown out. Orie was convicted of violating that law, among others.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927.

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