Orie, DeWeese Challenge Conflict of Interest Law

By Bumsted, Brad | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 19, 2010 | Go to article overview

Orie, DeWeese Challenge Conflict of Interest Law


Bumsted, Brad, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


HARRISBURG -- The attorney for Republican Sen. Jane Orie and Democratic Rep. Bill DeWeese today filed a constitutional challenge to conflict of interest charges against them and asked for dismissal of all charges they used public resources for political campaigns.

Meanwhile, a trial scheduled for today for former Democratic Whip Mike Veon on charges of misusing a nonprofit was postponed until May 24.

Attorney William C. Costopoulos filed documents in Allegheny and Dauphin county courts saying the conflict of interest statute on which the charges are based is so vague that, unless it is overturned, "we will continue to see individual prosecutors pursuing their own agendas and creating de facto ethics codes and policy rules for elected public officials through the criminal justice system."

Orie of McCandless is being prosecuted by a Democrat, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., while DeWeese of Waynesburg faces charges filed by Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, a candidate for governor.

Zappala spokesman Mike Manko declined comment. Kevn Harley, a spokesman for Corbett, also declined comment.

Costopoulos asked for a hearing on his challenge, which Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning scheduled for next month, after Zappala's office responds.

The attorney asked to put the preliminary hearings on hold for both lawmakers, and then for the courts to "dismiss the charges with prejudice."

Zappala charged Orie on April 7 with three counts of conflict of interest, three counts of theft of services, three counts of tampering or fabricating physical evidence and one count of conspiracy.

DeWeese on Dec. 15 was charged with four counts of theft, and conflict of interest and conspiracy. Prosecutors in both cases said the lawmakers used the resources of their offices, including staff and state-paid materials, to campaign for re-election or help others win races, including Orie's sister, Supreme Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin.

Corbett has charged 25 lawmakers, former lawmakers, and current and ex-staffers with using public resources for political work. …

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