Appeals court upholds conviction of former state Sen. Jane Orie |

Appeals court upholds conviction of former state Sen. Jane Orie

Megan Guza
Jane Orie was convicted of seven felonies and seven misdemeanors in 2012.

A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the conviction of former state Sen. Jane Orie, ruling that her retrial following the discovery of doctored evidence did not constitute double jeopardy.

Orie was charged in 2010 with theft of services and conspiracy based on allegations she used her legislative staff and office to do work on her re-election campaign.

As an Allegheny County jury deliberated on those charges in February 2011, the judge declared a mistrial after it came to light that Orie submitted forged documents into evidence.

A retrial the following year — with added charges relating to forgery — led to a conviction and Orie was sentenced to 2.5 to 10 years in prison. She was released in 2014.

Orie has since argued that the retrial amounted to double jeopardy. She also took issue with a decision during her retrial that the testimony of her expert witness would be irrelevant, thus barring his testimony. She also argued that the state Ethics Act is unconstitutionally vague.

Judge Stephanos Bibas, of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said in his opinion that the lower court was correct in upholding Orie’s retrial.

He wrote that the Superior Court was correct when it ruled that “once the trial judge realized forged documents had been admitted into evidence, he could not allow those documents to enter into the jury’s deliberation.”

Bibas also wrote that Orie had no right to call a Senate-rules expert because his testimony would not have been relevant to the charges against her.

Orie, who has been disbarred, represented the 40th District, which included parts of Allegheny and Butler counties. Her sister, Janine Orie, was convicted of public corruption for helping Jane Orie and third sister, former state Justice Joan Orie Melvin, use legislative staffers for campaign purposes.

Melvin was also convicted of corruption in the scheme. Melvin and Janine Orie have filed similar appeals. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court indicated it will rule separately on those appeals.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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