Ex-state Sen. Orie gets prison term for corruption

Former state Sen. Jane Orie.
Former state Sen. Jane Orie. (KEITH SRAKOCIC / Associated Press)
Posted: June 05, 2012

Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning today sentenced former state Sen. Jane Orie to a prison term of between 2 1/2 and 10 years on corruption charges.

She was immediately taken into custody after the sentencing hearing today in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Orie, a Republican, made no statements. She had tears in her eyes as she was led away.

Manning called her actions a "flagrant and disgraceful violation" of the lawyers’ oath.

Orie, 50, was found guilty in March of five felonies and nine misdemeanors. The charges, which included theft of services, ethics violations, tampering with evidence and forgery, stemmed from allegations she used her legislative staff to run fund-raisers and conduct campaign work. She has claimed the charges were politically motivated.

Restitution will be decided within 30 days based on legal briefs not yet submitted.

The statutory maximum penalty on the five felony counts is 3 1/2 to seven years in prison. Someone sentenced to less than two years’ incarceration can serve that time in the county jail. Anything longer calls for the sentence to be served in state prison.

Ms. Orie has been temporarily suspended from the practice of law as a result of her conviction.

The state Supreme Court issued the suspension on May 7. Her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, did not participate in the decision. At the time the justice was herself the target of a grand jury. She has since been charged with nine criminal counts alleging misuse of state resources for campaign purposes.

Orie also resigned May 21 from the 40th Senatorial District seat she held for more than 10 years. "It has been an honor and a privilege for me to have served in the Senate of Pennsylvania," she wrote in a brief resignation letter.

Voters in the district in Western Pennsylvania will go to the polls Aug. 7 in a special election to replace her. Former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods, who represented the 40th District before her three terms in Congress, is among as many as eight Republicans indicating interest in the seat. Democrat Dan DeMarco, who lost to Orie in 2010, is thought to be his party’s likely candidate.

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