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Papers came from Orie, her attorney says

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By Bobby Kerlik
Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

State Sen. Jane Orie's attorney signed an affidavit stating she provided him with documents he introduced during her corruption trial, including those prosecutors say were doctored, the Allegheny County district attorney said on Thursday.

William Costopoulos introduced dozens of documents during Orie's first trial, which ended in a mistrial after Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning found that some had been doctored.

Costopoulos did not return a call for comment. Orie's chief of staff, Michael Sarfert, referred calls to Costopoulos. James DePasquale, the attorney for Orie's sister, Janine Orie, who also faces corruption charges, dismissed the importance of the affidavit.

"Bill submitted an affidavit that says that the exhibits the DA's office alleges were tampered with were submitted to the court in the condition he received them and he has no knowledge they were tampered with, if they were tampered with," DePasquale said. "I don't think this means anything whatsoever."

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. filed 16 additional charges against the senator in August, accusing her of the forgeries. He said yesterday that because Costopoulos and his paralegal signed affidavits stating where they got the documents, prosecutors would not have to call Costopoulos as a witness in the case against Orie.

"He got all the documents at issue from Orie," Zappala said.

The cases against Orie are scheduled to be tried together.

Legal experts said Costopoulos' decision to sign the affidavit is unusual.

"It's troubling for an attorney to be giving evidence in a case that he's representing someone," said University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris. "I've never seen anything quite like this. I'm not saying it's wrong. It is unusual."

Orie, 49, a McCandless Republican, is scheduled for trial in February before Manning on charges that she and her sister, Janine Orie, 57, of McCandless, ordered the senator's staff to perform political work on state time. Janine Orie worked as an aide to her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who is not charged with wrongdoing.

A Secret Service examination found that three Orie documents -- two of which Costopoulos introduced at trial -- contain evidence of fraud in the signature of Jamie Pavlot, Orie's chief of staff. Pavlot was a key prosecution witness.

Prosecutors contend someone pasted Pavlot's signature onto a document to make it appear as if Pavlot acknowledged that she was responsible for oversight of the office. Another Pavlot signature appears to be pasted crookedly on a signature line.

During the highly publicized trial, lead prosecutor Lawrence Claus blamed the forgeries on Orie's defense team. Orie's brother, attorney Jack Orie, later blamed prosecutors.

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