Friday, March 4, 2011

Signature "Fraud" Probe? D-A Won't Say

A legal expert is predicting charges will be filed in connection to allegedly forged documents presented as evidence in state Senator Jane Orie’s corruption trial.
A jury was in its first full day of deliberations, when prosecutors brought the possibly phony signatures to Judge Jeffrey Manning’s attention. The Allegheny County judge declared a mistrial, telling jurors a “fraud [had] been perpetrated.” The signature of former Orie Chief of Staff Jamie Pavlot was apparently cut and pasted onto memos detailing standards for travel reimbursement, comp time, and the barring of campaign work within the office. When cross-examined, Pavlot testified she had never seen the documents; Orie’s lawyer, Bill Costopoulos, ridiculed her for that during his closing argument.

University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff, who’s been following the case, said he’s confident the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office will investigate. “There are lots of possibilities with respect to fraud, or tampering of evidence, or other kinds of obstruction of justice,” he said. “What they need to know, if they can, is to find out two things: 1) who did this? And 2) who else knew about it?”

A spokesman for the DA’s office declined to comment, citing a gag order surrounding the case. Burkoff went on to call the alleged forgeries “stunning,” saying, “Not only do you have something that looks like it is criminal. But it looks like it is stupid criminality, as well. This is pretty amazing. It’s like it’s out of the movies.”

Orie’s re-trial has been rescheduled for April 11. That date will likely be pushed back, since Costopoulos is already promising to appeal the decision, on the grounds of double jeopardy laws.

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