Sen. Orie says politics was kept out of legislative office

Trial resumes Monday; charged with using staff for campaigning
March 4, 2012 12:01 am

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State Sen. Jane Orie's lawyer spent a second day Saturday trying to show that his client kept politics out of her legislative offices, but prosecutors elicited damaging new testimony from the senator's former chief of staff.

To show that Ms. Orie followed the rules, defense attorney William Costopoulos cited an exchange between the Republican senator and a staffer who had broached a political issue in a Senate office email. Ms. Orie, of McCandless, replied that she handled political matters through her personal phone number.

Mr. Costopoulos also asked key prosecution witness Jamie Pavlot, the senator's former chief of staff, how Senate staffers responded when constituents walked into one of Ms. Orie's legislative offices and offered campaign help.

"We would thank them" but ask to get back to them, Ms. Pavlot said. If possible, she said, staffers asked the visitors to step outside the office to wrap up the conversation.

Ms. Orie and her sister, Janine Orie, are charged with using legislative resources to campaign for the senator and another sibling, now state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. The senator's second trial began Wednesday.

Last year, the case against the senator and Janine Orie ended in a mistrial when prosecutors alleged that the senator introduced fabricated documents. Their cases since have been severed.

Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus sought to refocus attention on the alleged abuses by having Ms. Pavlot confirm that staffers used office computers, printers and other equipment for campaign work.

Under questioning from Mr. Claus, Ms. Pavlot also testified for the first time about a 2009 conference call that she said she had with the senator and Justice Melvin after authorities had begun their investigation. She said she was instructed to remove documents pertaining to the justice's campaign from files that had been in the senator's legislative office.

The trial resumes Monday.

First Published 2012-03-03 23:29:10

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