Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Penn. GOP Sen. Jane Orie convicted of several corruption charges


Pennsylvania state Sen. Jane Orie (R) on Monday was convicted of 14 counts, including theft, conspiracy, conflict of interest, forgery, and evidence tampering, according to the Associated Press.

The 50-year-old lawmaker was accused of using her state-funded staff members to perform campaign work for herself and her sister, a state judge. Orie was acquitted of 10 other counts, including perjury and election-code violations.

“I think the outcome was positive,” Jennifer Knapp Rioja, a former intern for Orie, told the Pittsburg-Tribune Review.

“I think it shows that misusing state resources for your own gain will not go unpunished,” she continued. “Especially in a time of such severe budget cutting, that any money was diverted illegally is shameful. How many people are scheduled to lose food stamp benefits? How much less money is Pitt getting this year? Where else did that money belong?”

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.’s office launched an investigation of Orie after Rioja filed a complaint against the Pennsylvania senator in 2009.

“Any serious convictions like this are exactly what the prosecution sought, and the senator is now probably going to jail,” University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff said. “Convicted of 14 different counts is a lot. It’s serious judgment against her.”

Orie is not the only Pennsylvania lawmaker to have allegedly engaged in illegal campaign activities. Former state Rep. Stephen Stetler (R) is awaiting trial for similar charges.

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