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Senate caucus lawyers paid $1.2 million for Orie investigation

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By Bobby Kerlik
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

The bulk of the more than $1.2 million of public money that was paid out in relation to the investigation of state Sen. Jane Orie went to the law firm that represented the Senate caucus, figures released on Tuesday show.

Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson released cost figures showing that Philadelphia law firm Conrad O'Brien was paid $785,849. The firm represents the caucus and made numerous court filings related to Orie's defense.

Orie, 49, a McCandless Republican, is awaiting trial on charges she ordered her staff to perform political work on state time.

Other lawyers and firms who received taxpayer money include Obermayer Rebman Maxwell & Hippel LLP, $217,501; Thomas J. Farrell & Jay K. Reisinger, $131,794; DeForest Koscelnik Yokitis Kaplan & Berardinelli, $46,801; William F. Ward, $34,001; and Stephen Stallings, $12,720.

Arneson declined to say who the firms represented, citing attorney-client privilege.

None of the bills shows that Orie's previous attorney, Jerry McDevitt, or her current attorney, William Costopoulos, received money, according to Arneson's cost figures.

"Speaking generally, I can say that at least some of the payments included on the list were for costs incurred by the caucus on its own behalf," Arneson said.

Stalling represented the prosecution's star witness, former chief of staff Jamie Pavlot, during the first trial. He declined to comment.

David Berardinelli, of the firm DeForest Koscelnik Yokitis Kaplan & Berardinelli, said his firm represented at least five witnesses in the case. He declined to name them.

Ward, who is Gov. Tom Corbett's chief of staff, also has represented the caucus. He did not return a call for comment.

Matthew Haverstick, an attorney with Conrad O'Brien who represents the Senate caucus, declined to comment.

The other firms did not return calls for comment.

Prosecutors in April 2010 charged Orie and her sister, Janine Orie, 57, of McCandless. She worked as an aide to state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, another sister. Melvin is not charged.

A trial for the Ories ended in a mistrial in March when Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning found the senator's attorney introduced forged documents. District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. charged Jane Orie in August with 16 new crimes, including perjury and forgery related to the documents.

Costopoulos yesterday filed requests seeking to postpone Orie's retrial, which is scheduled for Oct. 3, and to join the senator's two cases into one trial.

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