Terror Alert Level

Friday, March 04, 2011

Its The Coverup That Gets You

The P-G and the Trib have extensive writeups today on yesterday's bombshell mistrial of the Orie sisters, where it was revealed that defense documents were obviously altered. As I mentioned yestrday, things ain't looking too good for the senator, as tampering with evidence and forgery are far more serious crimes than using your staff to do campaign work on the taxpayer's dime.
From the P-G:
Declaring that fraud had been committed, "on the court, the jury and our justice system," Judge Jeffrey A. Manning declared a mistrial Thursday in the corruption case against state Sen. Jane Orie after finding that her defense had submitted forged evidence.
Judge Manning repeatedly excoriated the defense after prosecutors presented evidence that the signature of Jamie Pavlot, Ms. Orie's former chief of staff and a key prosecution witness, had been forged on two documents...
Many, like the Sept. 25 letter, included the senator's handwritten instructions to Ms. Pavlot. Those messages were helpful to the defense in that they reinforced their portrayal of Ms. Pavlot as the day-to-day supervisor of the office, and of Ms. Orie as a boss who repeatedly urged her to ensure that political and legislative work were scrupulously separated.
Unlike most of the evidence, which was exchanged by the two sides in pretrial discovery, that collection of papers was not presented until late in the trial and the papers were not available to the prosecution until a few days ago. They represented a significant part of the senator's defense. Mr. Costopoulos had shown them one by one in his cross-examination of Ms. Pavlot. Then, as well as in his final arguments, he mocked the fact that the former chief of staff said she didn't recognize them.
Now we know why she didn't recognize them. They're forgeries.

Here's the Trib:

"It's deceitful, dishonest, despicable, and it's a crime," Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said about signatures on defense documents that he said appeared to be doctored or cut and pasted.
Orie, 49, and her sister, Janine Orie, 56, will likely face a retrial on accusations that they ordered the senator's staff to do campaign work, after prosecutors investigate the signatures, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus told the judge.
"I think you ought to look in your own house for the culprit," Manning told defense attorney William Costopoulos...
"I've never seen anything like this. I think it's incredible, and it's shocking," said John Burkoff, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who has been following the trial. "To try to find anything like this, you can't look to past trials, you have to look to movies.

Stranger than fiction indeed. I found this nugget in the Trib interesting:

If it turns out Manning erred in ordering the mistrial, the Ories could not be tried again on the same charges because the rules of double jeopardy would apply, he said. Defense attorneys objected to Manning's mistrial ruling.

I think that is very unlikely, but it is possible.

Depending on how the documents were altered, she may skate. If she did the cut and paste job herself, it will probably be impossible to prove, since she'd just deny it. If, however, it was done by a third party at her direction, and that third party can be identified by the prosecution, she's toast. In any case, what were defense exhibits have now become evidence for the prosecution, as they can be used to imply that Orie knew she was improperly mixing campaign work with official business, and tried to deflect the blame from herself and onto her chief of staff.
And what does it all mean for Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin? A grand jury continues to investigate.
The next few weeks are going to be very, very interesting.

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