Attorney for Orie bristles at sum
A judge should not force former state Sen. Jane Orie to pay $1.3 million in restitution to cover the legal costs of the corruption investigation that ended her career and could send her to prison, her lawyer said in a court filing Thursday.
Attorney William Costopoulos said a judge should reject the “unprecedented” request by prosecutors in District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.’s office for the reimbursement, which they said would likely have to come in part from Orie’s state pension contributions and campaign funds.
Orie, 50, R-McCandless, is set for sentencing June 4 on 14 convictions for using her staff to do campaign work on state time and using forged documents as evidence in her first trial, which ended in a mistrial because of the doctored documents.
Costopoulos’ filing does not mention $780,000 in restitution prosecutors added earlier this week to Orie’s bill for a total of $2.15 million. Prosecutors say that amount is restitution for state-paid staffers who did political work on state time.
In his filing, Costopoulos wrote that all but $102,000 of the $1.3 million public legal bill went to represent the Pennsylvania Republican Caucus, which hired Philadelphia law firm Conrad O’Brien to represent its interests and produce documents required for the trial, according to the filing.
Costopoulos contends Orie had no control over the law firm’s actions, so she should not be required to pay its fees, including the $102,000.
In a nine-page filing, Costopoulos argues the Senate Republican Caucus is a politically-organized group and not a state agency, meaning a statute that governs reimbursements from public officials convicted of a crime does not apply.
“The commonwealth’s motion here is unprecedented legally and factually and it should be rejected,” he said. “Even if this court finds that Conrad O’Brien represented Sen. Orie personally for a time, the facts show such representation was extremely limited.”
Costopoulos did not return a call seeking comment.
Mike Manko, a spokesman for Zappala, declined to comment.
Costopoulos said Zappala’s request is the “first known attempt” by prosecutors to use a statute in the crimes code to obtain restitution from a convicted state legislator. He said 15 public officials convicted in the “Bonusgate” or “Computergate” prosecutions during the past three years weren’t ordered to pay restitution.