Posted Mar 03, 2011 09:56 pm CST
A Pennsylvania judge today declared a mistrial in the case of a state lawmaker and ex-prosecutor accused of conspiring with a sister to illegally use her staff to help another sister, who now sits on the state supreme court, with election campaign work.
Contending, after prosecutors brought documents entered by the defense into evidence to his attention, that “Ray Charles could see that those signatures were doctored,” Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning called the situation a fraud on the court and declared a mistrial in the case of State Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, the Associated Press reported.
Manning earlier ordered jury deliberations suspended and had documents 101A, 101B and 110 brought in from the jury room and examined by an expert after the prosecution raised doubts about the authenticity of three purported signatures by a staffer, explains the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Orie, who formerly worked as prosecutor both at the state attorney general’s office and in the county district attorney’s office, and her co-defendant sibling, Janine Orie, have denied wrongdoing. They say staff did campaign work on their own time and contend the county’s current Democratic district attorney has pursued a political case against them.
The senator also faces additional charges concerning her alleged misuse of her staff for political work.
Janine Orie has worked as a paid aide to the third sister, Justice Joan Orie Melvin, since Melvin was a superior court judge, although Janine Orie is currently suspended from that position. The judge has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Attorney William Costopoulos, who represents the senator, said in court that there is nothing to show the defense is linked to claimed forged signatures on the documents at issue.
Attorney James DePasquale, who represents Janine Orie, asked the judge to let the jury continue to deliberate in the case against his client, but Manning said the two cases were “too closely interrelated.”
Associated Press: “Orie’s ex-top aide: Senator attempted cover-up”
Updated at 5:03 p.m. to include Post-Gazette information.