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Zappala blasts request to drop Orie's charges

| Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. fired back Friday against state Senate Republicans by claiming the alleged criminal actions of Sen. Jane Orie could in no way be viewed as acceptable.

Zappala filed the 17-page response in the state Supreme Court a day after the Senate caucus' 194-page motion seeking emergency action to dismiss the charges against the McCandless Republican.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the case, unless the state's high court acts. Zappala charged Orie, then the majority whip, in April with theft of services and conflict of interest. He accused her of using state-paid legislative staff to do campaign work for her and her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

"Certainly the utilization of Senate resources and staff to promote her sister's political campaign could in no way be (considered) as an 'acceptable practice' under Pennsylvania law," Zappala's motion states.

The Republican Senate caucus claims the state's conflict-of-interest statute is vague and unconstitutional and is seeking a delay in Orie's case. Orie's attorney, William Costopoulos, filed similar motions.

A second sister, Janine Orie, an aide to Melvin, faces similar charges and is scheduled for trial Tuesday. Melvin has not been charged but is under a grand jury investigation.

Zappala wrote that Orie is a lawyer, former prosecutor and politician and is no stranger to laws governing politicians.

Costopoulos has declined to comment, citing a gag order in the case.

Orie claims she is being targeted because of her opposition to gambling, to which Zappala's family has connections.

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