PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Just hours after State Sen. Jane Orie’s arrest Monday night on 16 counts of forgery, perjury and tampering or fabricating evidence, her attorney William Costopoulos questioned District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s motives.
“The double jeopardy claim is before the Superior Court,” Costopoulos told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano.
“The timing of these charges is suspicious, and I believe this maneuver was brought to influence the appellate process.”
Costopoulos says the Superior Court is expected to rule shortly on whether Orie can be retried on the original charges that ended in a mistrial last March.
“This timing was calculated and was strategic and serves no purpose other than to influence that Superior Court.”
And Orie’s attorney said the senator was mistreated when she turned herself in Monday night.
“There was no need to handcuff that senator and put her in a holding cell for over two and a half hours other than to demean her,” Costopoulos said.
As to the underlying charges, University of Pittsburgh criminal law professor John Burkoff says, “It’s not a slam dunk.”
Without direct evidence, Burkoff says it’s going to be hard to prove that Orie forged documents.
“To actually show that she did it, well, that has to be arrived at circumstantially and that’s not an easy leap for everyone.”
And perjury is also a difficult charge to make stick because not only must Orie have testified falsely but also, “that the person who made these misstatements actually believed they were false.”
“So one of the defenses you could have to that,” says Burkoff, “was, ‘Oh I may have said the wrong thing but I actually believed it.’”
While Orie’s attorney says the new charges are just a rehash of the old ones, the DA’s office disputes that characterization.
In a statement this afternoon, Zappala’s office added, “The roles of the persons who had possession of these documents are still being developed.”
That suggests that others beside Orie could be under investigation for this fraud.