Judge confines Joan Orie Melvin to home; orders her to write new apologies
Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will have plenty of time at home to write a second round of apology letters for her conviction on corruption charges.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lester Nauhaus on Tuesday ordered Melvin to write new letters, saying those she sent last week to judges across the state were “generic” and “unsatisfactory.”
He reinstated her house arrest, allowing her to leave home only for church.
“This is not an apology,” Nauhaus said. “After I approve the (new) letter, you will confirm with me that each judge has received a letter.”
Nauhaus said each letter must be personalized and written by her, although he stopped short of requiring her to write them by hand.
He ordered an electronic monitoring device be strapped to her ankle.
Nauhaus rescinded the portion of Melvin’s sentence ordering her to work in a soup kitchen, saying, “The attempt to have the defendant have any kind of humility has failed.”
Instead, Melvin, 58, is confined to her 3,650-square-foot home in Marshall unless she wants to attend Sunday Mass, Holy Days of Obligation and Christmas Eve services.
She had been working in a soup kitchen.
Melvin’s attorney, Patrick Casey, held up a list in court of about 600 names of judges and former Melvin staffers who will receive letters. He declined to comment afterward. Asked if she wanted to comment, Melvin said “someday.”
After a jury convicted Melvin in February 2013 of using state staffers for campaign work, Nauhaus sentenced her to three years of house arrest and two years of probation. He ordered her to work at a soup kitchen three days a week and write the letters of apology on pictures of herself in handcuffs.
On appeal, the Superior Court upheld the letter-writing but ruled the letters didn’t have to be on photographs of her in handcuffs.
Melvin initially appealed again to the Supreme Court but withdrew the appeal last month when the court said she couldn’t pick and choose what parts of her sentence to start serving while she appeals the other parts. That left her the choice of putting off the entire sentence while she appeals, or dropping the appeal.
Melvin sent the first letters last week, writing that, “As a matter of law, I am guilty of these offenses.”
“In reflection, I wish I had been more diligent in my supervision of my staff and that I had given them more careful instructions with respect to the prohibition on political activity set forth in the Supreme Court’s Order dated November 24, 1998,” Melvin’s letter stated.
The jury convicted Melvin of using her Superior Court seat to campaign for the Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. She lost the 2003 election but won the 2009 election to the high court. She was charged with using her and her sister’s taxpayer-paid staffs to run her campaigns.
Melvin’s sister, former Republican Sen. Jane Orie, 53, of McCandless was released from prison in February after serving the minimum of her 2½- to 10-year sentence on charges of forgery, conflict of interest and theft of services.
A third sister and former Melvin staffer, Janine Orie, 60, of McCandless was sentenced to a year of house arrest for her role in her sisters’ schemes.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or [email protected].