A professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh characterizes it as "piling on," but prosecutors' attempt to force convicted state Sen. Jane Orie to repay more than $1.5 million in legal fees paid by state taxpayers is the correct post-conviction action.
Orie was found guilty of violating the public trust and she deserves having to pay the consequences - in this instance, the big-time consequences.
Still, there undoubtedly are some constituents who share the view of the Pitt professor, John Burkoff, who told a Pittsburgh newspaper, "The government already has her down and out; do they really need to kick her too?"
Having been convicted on 14 of 24 corruption counts, Orie doesn't deserve compassion via the taxpayers' money.
Orie, who is scheduled to be sentenced next month, resigned Monday from her Senate seat.
Burkoff believes Orie will be jailed, and that would be appropriate punishment. Last Monday, the state Supreme Court temporarily suspended Orie from the practice of law, and that suspension eventually should be made permanent.
People who choose not to obey the law should not be permitted to practice it.
Still, Orie's predicament has become a sad conclusion to a political career that probably would have achieved many more accomplishments, if she hadn't fallen victim to the belief that she was above the law.
Under Senate rules, the caucus is responsible for paying for a sitting member's legal defense during the course of an investigation. But all payments must stop once charges are filed.
A motion filed by Allegheny County prosecutors indicates that the Senate spent $1.3 million during the Orie investigation. Another $74,000 was paid to a former state judge who served as an expert witness at Orie's pretrial hearing.
Eric Epstein, co-founder of the political reform group Rock the Capital, said it's common for politicians to use taxpayers' money to fund their legal defense. However, he said, it's rare for a district attorney's office to seek reimbursement for those costs - but it should not be.
Requiring Orie to repay the money would be another positive result geared toward cleaning up the illegal activities that have undermined Pennsylvania state government for years - and resulted in the premature end to a number of powerful political careers.
"Piling on" against Orie is the right move. The taxpayers deserve it.