For much of her political career, Jane Orie was the voice of the underdog and a staunch advocate for crime victims, particularly abused women and children.
Behind the scenes in her McCandless office, however, Sen. Orie was abusing her legislative power. That's what a jury said Monday when the panel found her guilty of 14 criminal charges that included theft of services, conspiracy, conflict of interest, evidence tampering and forgery.
Seven of the counts were the result of charges filed two years ago that accused Ms. Orie of improperly using her legislative staff to campaign for her; she was found not guilty of charges that she did the same thing in an effort to assist the successful campaign of her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
The remaining seven counts of which she was convicted, as well as three perjury and three other counts of which she was acquitted, were filed last year, after a mistrial on the first batch of charges. They accused Ms. Orie of submitting fraudulent and doctored documents during that first trial, including one with a cut-and-paste signature of her former chief of staff on a memo intended to suggest that the senator did not allow her employees to mix their legislative duties with political campaigning.
In other words, the first group of charges constituted the crime and the second, the cover-up.
During her five years in the state House of Representatives and 10 in the Senate, Ms. Orie did not seem destined to become the next lawmaker to take the walk of shame from the Capitol to the defendant's table. But she has, and now she sits at home wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet.
With her conviction, the Republican should do her constituents in the 40th Senatorial District a favor and step down now. It's safe to say that, regardless of the good work she performed earlier in her career, most of her attention for the past two years has been directed toward her own defense. The months ahead will be the same.
Ms. Orie maintains her innocence, and her lawyer says she will appeal the conviction, but her political career is over.
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette