PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The conviction of State Senator Jane Orie on 14 counts of theft, conspiracy, conflict of interest, forgery, and evidence tampering brought sympathy from some Republican leaders.
Republican County Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh spoke the day after Orie’s conviction.
“I’m very saddened by the conviction. Jane represented her constituents in an exemplary manner for many, many years.”
Nonetheless, Heidelbaugh says Orie should resign.
“Now that she has been found guilty, I think it would be in the best interest of her constituents to step down.”
But in a telephone interview from Harrisburg, Orie’s attorney William Costopoulus told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano Orie can remain on the public payroll until sentencing.
“She is required by law to step down upon sentencing, yes. She could do it before then. That decision is the Senator’s and hers alone,” Costopoulos said.
Orie will be sentenced on May 21st and most of the felony counts against her carry a maximum of seven years in jail.
Costopoulos says Orie’s conviction is likely to be appealed.
“My guess would be with substantial certainty that an appeal will be taken,” Costopoulos says.
Costopoulos thinks it’s very unlikely that a first-time offender would get such lengthy time.
Instead of jail time, Costopoulos says Orie could be confined to her home.
“The senator has never been in trouble before. She has been a very good public servant. She is no risk to society. There is zero possibility of recidivism.”
Costopoulos says home confinement is appropriate because she’s also losing her job, her pension and will be disbarred.
“Keep in mind, whatever the court does, the consequences are far greater for someone like that than they would be to an ordinary citizen.”
But jail time seems likely – sending a strong message to all politicians.
“Having employees campaign on the payroll is a disservice to the taxpayers, and I hope this now will cease,” Heidelbaugh says.
As a convicted felon, Orie will have to resign which means voters in the 40th Senatorial district will elect a new Senator for a district that stretches from the North Hills into lower Butler County.
Heidelbaugh says Melissa Hart is the obvious Republican choice.
“I think that she should run. I know that Republican leaders are urging her to run. That was her Senate seat prior to her becoming a Congresswoman.”
But Ross Township Commissioner Dan Demarco who ran against Orie two years ago — is a likely Democratic challenger.
“Certainly giving it very serious consideration, certainly am,” Demarco says.
Demarco made Orie’s court case an issue in his campaign for her Senate seat two years ago.
“I feel vindicated,” he says.
There is no date set for that special election in the 40th Senatorial district.
Once Orie does resign, Republican leaders in the State Senate will set the election date.
It could come as early as this summer or perhaps as late as the general election on November 6th.