PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a forgery.
That’s what the United States Secret Service calls three documents admitted in evidence at the criminal trial last February of State Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless.
When Judge Jeffrey Manning learned that possibly forged documents had been introduced as evidence by Senator Orie’s lawyers back in February, he called a mistrial.
Now the District Attorney’s office has petitioned Judge Manning for a full evidentiary hearing on the forgeries and made public a report of the U.S. Secret Service.
In the supplemental report issued on June 10 and filed in court documents on June 30, Secret Service examiners wrote how Orie’s chief of staff Jamie Pavlot’s signature was forged.
“None of these signatures are original writing, with exhibits Q18-2 and Q18-5 being created with an office machine system utilizing inkjet technology while Q-36 was produced using an office machine system utilizing toner technology,” it says.
The report validates the reason Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning gave when he declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury before it reached a verdict.
“One of the things you have to remember is, in granting a mistrial, what the judge said was, ‘Oh these are clearly forgeries,'” says Pitt Law Professor John Burkoff. “Well, now you actually have the Secret Service saying, ‘Yep, he was right.'”
But the unanswered question is who did it?
“Logically, we would all suspect someone who was on the defense side, whether or not it was one of the defendants, must have done it because it helped with the defense argument,” says Burkoff.
But Orie’s attorneys have implied it was the district attorney’s office.
“Maybe the prosecution did this to make them look bad,” says Burkoff.
In a June 30th request for an evidentiary court hearing on this issue, District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office claims Orie’s lawyers were implying the DA’s office had doctored the documents.
The filing emphasizes the DA’s view that the DA office couldn’t forge the signatures because the forgery came to light at trial “before the commonwealth had possession of the subject documents and while defense had exclusive possession and control of the documents.”
There is no indication yet whether Judge Manning will hold an evidentiary hearing. In the meantime, the Superior Court must decide whether retrying Senator Orie results in double jeopardy. If the trial is allowed to go forward, she will be retried this fall.