PITTSBURGH (AP) — Attorneys for Joan Orie Melvin accused prosecutors of launching a “venomous personal attack” on the former Supreme Court justice because they believe she should have been sent to prison in the wake of her campaign corruption conviction.
Melvin’s lawyers argued in court papers Friday that she shouldn’t be made to send letters of apology to every judge in Pennsylvania while she appeals her conviction and sentence. The apology letters were part of her sentence, along with three years’ house arrest, community service and a fine.
The Superior Court has already temporarily delayed the apology letters, prompting Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. to argue that if Melvin fails to apologize as her sentence requires, the sentencing judge should be given a chance to send her to prison.
Melvin’s attorneys responded Friday by asking why prosecutors would oppose her “routine request” for a delay while she appeals.
“The answer is apparent in the Commonwealth’s venomous personal attack against Orie Melvin: It believes she should have been sentenced to a term of incarceration,” the lawyers wrote in a brief filed with Superior Court.
Melvin and her sister, former aide Janine Orie, were convicted of using state employees to do political work while Melvin campaigned for the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. Melvin, a former Superior Court judge, won a seat on her second try.
Janine Orie, 59, is serving a year of house arrest for illegally directing the taxpayer-funded staffs of Melvin and a third sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, to work on Melvin’s Supreme Court campaigns. Jane Orie, 51, is serving 2½ to 10 years in prison for her separate campaign-corruption conviction last year.
After Melvin was sentenced, Judge Lester Nauhaus had court employees photograph her in handcuffs and ordered her to sign copies of the picture along with a handwritten apology and send them to the state’s judges.
Even though she has already obtained a temporary stay from Superior Court, Melvin has been ordered to appear before Nauhaus on Tuesday for a probation violation hearing that will focus on her failure to send the apology letters, her lawyers noted.
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