PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – State Sen. Jane Orie appeared in court for a hearing Monday. She is accused of abusing her taxpayer funded office by using it for political purposes.
Orie’s lawyers are trying to get this case tossed out before it gets to trial by challenging the search warrants used to gather evidence.
However, if there is a trial, they want a local jury, unlike the prosecution.
Defense attorney Bill Costopoulos asked every agent, in the search of Orie’s office, a number of questions about the search and what they hoped to find.
He also asked questions about the informant, who started the investigation when she went to the district attorney’s office, claimed she knew about political work on state time.
“According to the testimony, she went to the attorney general first, and he didn’t take it, for whatever reason, and this county decided to run with it,” Costopoulos said.
Costopoulos asked questions about search warrants that led to an indictment of Sen. Orie and her sister.
For example, he claims that when investigators did surveillance of the Orie offices and discovered what they believed to be the removal of evidence, the evidence was old campaign literature from 10 years ago.
The senator’s campaign office at that time is where her legislative office is now.
“I’ve never seen anything quite this aggressive. It is getting very personal. And I don’t like it. And I’m hoping Judge Manning does the appropriate thing, and that is deem these searches and seizures in this manner unreasonable and in violation of everybody’s rights. And I’m talking about mine and yours and suppressing it, and dismissing the charges. That’s where I’m coming from,” Costopoulos said.
However, the prosecution contends that the warrants, even though executed on a sitting state senator, were valid and legal as authorized by a judge.
If the case goes to trial, the prosecution wants an out of county jury to hear it. The reason stems from pre-trial publicity and Orie’s own statements attacking the prosecution claiming a political vendetta.
The judge conducted a test sample of a potential jury pool to see the impact of pre-trial publicity.
Of the 81 people in the jury room, 47 said they heard of the case. Only 10 said they had formed a fixed opinion. While the judge has not made any determination about those numbers, the defense has.
“This district attorney has been picking juries from this county since he was elected. I don’t think he has ever not trusted his people. But he doesn’t trust them in passing judgment on this particular prosecution, and I don’t blame him,” Costopoulos said.
Meanwhile, the defense wants to go over almost all of the 120 search warrants issued in this case.
Testimony in this motions hearing will continue on Tuesday.