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Sen. Jane Orie hit with charges of perjury, tampering, forgery

| Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011

To help prove her innocence at her corruption trial this year, state Sen. Jane Orie submitted forged documents, prosecutors say, and she faces 16 new charges of perjury, tampering with evidence and forgery.

Orie turned herself in on Monday night for processing at the Allegheny County Jail. She left shortly before 9 p.m. and did not comment.

The District Attorney's office filed the charges yesterday, nearly six months after Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning declared a mistrial in the original case against Orie. The new charges include five felony counts of perjury and six counts of tampering with evidence, two counts of forgery and several other state election code violations, all misdemeanors, according to court papers.

Prosecutors say Orie was in her Senate office at 12:34 a.m. on July 2, 2010, scanning into state computers versions of documents she would submit in her defense weeks later. Prosecutors say one such document appears to have been doctored after it was scanned in, even though Orie testified that the document had been created in 2006.

Orie's brother, Jack Orie, said neither she nor her attorneys knew about the charges until members of the media began calling him for comment. He called his sister, who was "shocked" by the charges, he said. He called the District Attorney's office to confirm the charges, and was told detectives were in the North Hills looking for his sister.

"We were advised that detectives were out in the North Hills, actively seeking her out to arrest her to do the perp walk," Jack Orie said. He said he told prosecutors that he would bring his sister in for processing. When they arrived at the county jail about 6:20, a detective inside tried to handcuff Jane Orie, despite their agreement, Jack Orie said. "I guess the DA likes something like that, when they put the handcuffs on a person."

In addition to the new counts, Orie, 49, and her sister, Janine Orie, 57, face a retrial on charges that they ordered the McCandless senator's staff to perform campaign work on state time for Jane Orie's campaign and that of their sister, Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. Janine Orie, who worked in Melvin's Supreme Court office, was not charged yesterday. Melvin has not been charged.

"The other shoe has dropped," said University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff. "We always suspected that the DA's office would charge someone as a result of an investigation into these forgeries, and now we know who they believe is the culprit. But only time will tell whether they have the facts and the proof to support these charges."

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., through his spokesman Mike Manko, declined to comment, citing the judge's gag order. The Ories' lawyer, William Costopolous, could not be reached.

According to the affidavit, two of Orie's Senate employees delivered boxes of documents to Costopolous for her defense during a legislative work day, at one point staying inside his office because of district attorney personnel who were outside at the time. The affidavit says that Orie ordered Senate staff to copy documents for her defense and that she lied about the location of a campaign office.

One staffer estimated that the scanning she was ordered to do, if it had all been done at once rather than over several months, would have taken her and a colleague a week, according to the affidavit. She said none of the scanned documents was legislative, according to the affidavit.

Manning declared a mistrial on March 3 when prosecutors submitted evidence of what appeared to be doctored documents submitted by the Ories' defense team. The documents -- including the one Orie allegedly scanned in her office after midnight -- show signatures of Orie's former chief of staff, Jamie Pavlot, that appeared to have been cut from one document and crudely pasted onto another.

The documents purported to show Pavlot verified and signed that she oversaw certain responsibilities in Orie's Senate office. Upon seeing the signatures on a projector, Manning angrily shouted, "Ray Charles could see these signatures are doctored!" In June, the Secret Service issued a report stating that three documents related to the Orie case show evidence of fake signatures.

The Ories' lawyers opposed Manning's mistrial declaration.

While prosecutors contend the defense team introduced the forgeries, Jack Orie has suggested that prosecutors could have submitted the fakes.

On their trip to the jail last night, Jane Orie "was crying. She was shocked," Jack Orie said. "This is tough, when you know you haven't done anything wrong, to be charged with all these felonies."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh Municipal Court.

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