Sen. Orie: 'I Did Everything in My Power' to Comply with Ethics Law
BobKerlik, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
State Sen. Jane Orie spent four hours on Monday rebutting two weeks of testimony accusing her of using state-paid staff for political work.
Wearing a sparkling American flag pin on her lapel and a cross around her neck, the McCandless Republican took the stand in her corruption retrial and told jurors that she largely relied on former chief of staff Jamie Pavlot -- the prosecution's key witness -- to enforce ethics rules in the office.
"I did everything in my power as best as I could that all my directives were complied with according to the ethics law, according to the Senate rules and according to the laws of Pennsylvania to keep political work separate," Orie, 50, said in even tones during the 15th day of testimony in her trial in the Allegheny County Courthouse.
"I considered Jamie Pavlot like a sister to me. I trusted her very much," she said. "I believed she was honoring those directives."
Sporting a navy blue suit and blue high heels, Orie talked matter-of-factly, frequently spoke directly to the jury and used her hands and arms to help explain answers to questions from her attorney, William Costopoulos. He is expected to continue questioning her today before prosecutors begin their cross- examination.
Many jurors scribbled notes while Orie talked, but by the end of the day, most just listened. The courtroom remained sparsely filled, as it has been most of the trial. Her sister, Janine Orie, 57, who stood trial with the senator last year but is awaiting a separate retrial, sat in the gallery and took notes.
Prosecutors say the Ories directed state staff to perform campaign work on state time for the senator and their sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. Jane Orie also is accused of doctoring signatures on defense documents introduced in the first trial. The forged papers prompted Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning to declare a mistrial last spring.
Jane Orie also testified in her first trial.
She told jurors yesterday that she spent a lot of time in Harrisburg and relied on Pavlot to run the day-to-day business of her offices -- and to carry out directives to keep political work separate. …