State Senator Jane Orie of Pittsburgh's North Hills and her sister Janine Orie have been held for trial on charges they used the lawmaker's taxpayer-funded staff to do campaign work on state time.
Following a three day preliminary hearing, Allegheny County Judge Donna Jo McDaniel ordered Jane Orie and Janine Orie to stand trial on charges they conspired to use the senator's staff for campaign work for the senator and for a another sister, State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. Janine Orie is on paid leave as an aide to Justice Melvin. Several former Orie staffers including the chief of staff testified they conducted campaign work at Senator Orie's direction.
William Costopoulos, attorney for Senator Orie, said he was "disappointed" and questioned the expense of the investigation.....
"Now if you wanna talk about the taxpayer's money lets talk about what this investigation has cost the commonwealth to bring the senator and her sister to trial. The amount of money that has been paid out to investigate the senator and bring her sister to trial far exceeds any of the allegations times ten."
The Ories have denied the allegations claiming they are the result of a "political witch hunt" by District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Senator Orie says she's fighting political corruption particularly in the gambling industry. She claims she was targeted because the district attorney's father, Stephen Zappala, Sr., is the chairman of the Pennsylvania Casino Association...and a former State Supreme Court Justice.
A trial date has not yet been set and another Common Pleas Judge, Jeffrey Manning, will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the investigation into the senator.