Defense lawyers in the case of PA Senator Jane Orie and her sister Janine Orie took shots and prosecution witnesses and the prosecutors this morning as they presented their closing arguments. Testimony in the corruption trial lasted nearly three weeks.
In his closing arguments, Sen. Orie’s lawyer William Costopoulos told the jury that the case against his client was nothing more than a “smoke screen.” He says they brought in witness after witness and binder after binder of “billowing smoke.” “Just when I thought I had the room cleared they brought in more…,” says Costopoulos. He says the prosecution never did anything to rid the jury of its reasonable doubt.
Costopoulos went on to hammer at the testimony of key prosecution witness Jamie Pavlot. Pavlot was Sen. Orie’s office manager. She was given immunity for her testimony. Costopoulos argued that Pavlot was the one running the office in McCandless and if anything illegal was going on it was her fault, not the fault of the senator. He says Orie put Pavlot in charge of the office so she could carry out her duties as a senator. Costopoulos says Pavlot’s testimony amounted to lies, “back home where I come from we call it perjury.” He wrapped up by saying, “[Sen. Orie] committed no theft, did not alter or destroy anything, her only fault was misplacing her trust.”
Janine Orie’s lawyer James DePasquale then stood before the jury and wondered aloud why his client was there. He posted a list of all of the prosecution’s 22 witness. He then went one by one noting that most of them did not even mention his client’s name, and if they did, they could not tie her to any criminal activity. He told the jury that he did not have his client take the stand because, “there are times in the system when the charges are so insulting and ridiculous that they do not deserve a response.”
DePasquale says the only reason why his client was on trial is because the state needs a person to sit next to the Senator to charge her with conspiracy. DePasquale asked the prosecution table, “What in the world are you doing to a good human being trying to ruin her life with no evidence and no good reason.” He called Janine Orie a patsy. He says too many of the other’ individuals involved in the case were either too sympathetic to charge or had already been given immunity. He told the jury to “speak truth to power,” and if they did that Janine Orie would have nothing to fear.
Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus launched his closing arguments by echoing the words of the defense. He agreed that there was a lot of smoke. However, he says the smoke was hiding the fire in Sen. Orie’s North Hills office, “that showed a blatant misuse of staff and equipment.” He says that fire has been smoldering since 2001.
Like James DePasquale. Claus asked the jury to “speak truth to power.” However, he says they need to speak that truth to the power that allows a state senator to use her staff for an extended period of time for her own benefit. “Think about what [Sen. Orie] could garner having a staff and her beck and call,” without costing her, “one dime.”
Claus then launched into a nearly two-hour recap of the evidence, presenting a slew of emails and text messages that he says show Jane Orie knew what was going on in her office and took an active roll in directing the staff to perform campaign work while on the state’s payroll. He called Orie a micro-manager of a, “political machine, that was working quite well thank you, at the expense of the taxpayer.” Those same emails, Claus contends, show that Janine Orie directed her sister’s staff to do work for Joan Orie Melvin’s PA Supreme Court campaign while on the state’s payroll and while using state assets.
Jane Orie faces 10 counts including multiple counts of Diversion (theft) of Services, violations of the PA Ethics laws and Tampering with or fabricating evidence. Janine is charged with conspiracy to commit a felony.