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Investigators Seize Pa. Lawmaker and Ex-Prosecutor’s Computers in Evidence-Tampering Probe

Posted Oct 21, 2011 3:14 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Three Pennsylvania state senate computer hard drives were seized in Harrisburg today concerning a probe of what a judge called doctored evidence when he declared a mistrial earlier this year for a lawmaker accused in a political corruption case.

Defense exhibits in the trial of Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, who formerly worked as a prosecutor, were turned over earlier to District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

But when the DA's office asked for more, it was discovered that documents had been removed from the state computer system, according to the article, after apparently being turned over as requested in the probe. The Senate Republican Caucus told the newspaper in a written statement that it had cooperated and would continue to do so.

Orie, 49, and her co-defendant sister Janine, 57, have denied wrongdoing in the underlying case, in which they are accused of participating in an alleged conspiracy to use government staff on election work to help another sister gain a seat on the state supreme court. They have suggested the investigation was politically motivated. The sister who sits on the state supreme court bench has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The newspaper could not reach attorney William Costopoulos, who represents the senator, for comment.

The senator is scheduled to go to trial again in February, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The case against her this time around will include new charges of forgery and perjury filed by Zappala in August.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "‘Doctored’ Docs Create Mistrial for Lawmaker Accused of Illegally Helping Sis in Supreme Court Race"

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "DA's office investigating loss of documents in Orie case"

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Top court won't hear Orie appeal"

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