Three sisters were convicted Thursday on charges of public corruption for using state employees as political campaign workers. They served as a Supreme Court justice, a state senator and a court aide according to the Daily Mail Online on Feb. 22.
Two of the sisters, Justice Joan Orie Melvin and Janine Orie, were convicted for theft of services and a number of other crimes in Pennsylvania. The youngest sister, former state senator Jane Orie is serving a ten year sentence for her conviction last year.
The sisters, all proud Republicans claim the charges were exaggerated or were complete falsehoods created by the prosecutor who is Democratic.
The two sisters convicted Thursday have not yet been sentenced. Their lawyer plans to appeal the verdict.
Janine, the eldest of the three sisters, was convicted all six of the charges she faced. Joan was convicted on six out of the seven charges levied against her. The suspended Justice was not convicted on the final charge - official oppression – because jurors could not reach a decision on the allegations she fired her law clerk in 2003 when she objected to having to do political work.
The sisters were also convicted of conspiring to use the state-funded staffs of Melvin’s and former state senator Jane Orie in 2003 and 2009 to work on Supreme Court Judge Melvin’s campaign.
The defense alleged that the sisters used their family’s ties with the criminal element to misuse state resources and to force staffers to work on campaigns. The defense claimed the allegations were false.
Joan and Janine have been suspended without pay. Melvin is facing additional charges from the Judicial Conduct Board.
Jane resigned s state senator last year and is serving her time for illegally using her staff to work on her own political campaigns. Though charged as part of the conspiracy, she did not stand trial. She was acquitted of charges that claimed she forced her workers to participate on Melvin’s campaign.
Democratic Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., says the case was opened when an intern for then-Senator Orie approached him in 2009 to lodge a complaint regarding the political work the staff was being forced to do for Melvin. The intern came forward just days before Melvin won her seat on the Supreme Court.
The sisters have contended that Zappala has had a vendetta against them because they have opposed expanding legalized gambling. Zappala’s family has an interest in that industry.
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