Here's some background as we ponder the upcoming indictment against Jane Orie, the third-highest ranking member of the GOP in the state Senate, and Western Pa's highest-ranking Senator. There's a LOT of it.
Orie claims the case is a vendetta by DA Stephen Zappala for her questioning of casino interests, including a consulting group run by his father, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court. She battled with the Pennsylvania Casino Association's lawyer, Richard Sprague, during a hearing in February. (The hearing was "a Mickey Mouse thing," Sprague said at the time.)
Who's Sprague again? That's right, the lawyer Luke Ravenstahl hired to guard his privacy after he announced his separation from wife Erin in November.
Orie's lawyer through all this has been Jerry McDevitt, the hard-charging defense attorney who successfully battled the federal corruption charges against Cyril Wecht, and the former lawyer for World Wrestling Entertainment chieftan Vince McMahon. He is hard-charging in another way -- the lawyer for corporate giant K&L (you can see their name while at Pirates games, atop the former FreeMarkets building) said today that the Ories cannot afford to hire him in the criminal trial.
The charges against Orie (which go back to last year) cover in part the successful campaigning she waged on behalf of her sister's bid to join the Supreme Court. Yes the same Supreme Court Zappala's dad was on, and yes, a bid that involved Joan Orie Melvin's criticisms of judicical corruption in the Luzerne County cash-for-juvenile-court-charges scandal -- a scandal that, yes, involved DA Zappala's brother, who owned two of the juvenile detention centers where kids were unjustly incarcerated. (Greg Zappala has not been charged but a business partner has been.)
All that backstory was touched on in a rare public battle between Justice Jane Orie Melvin and current Chief Justice Ronald Castille in February.
It's been a rough year for Sen. Orie -- last May an aide was charged with soliciting a teen for "furry" sex.
Jane Orie has had her share of battles in the past, with former state Sen. and congresswoman Melissa Hart and the Rooney family. Here's some Orie bio stuff Mackenzie Carpenter wrote back in 2003:
The North Hills may be a place where conservative family values hold sway, but it's positively feminist when it comes to electing public officials: In 1996, Orie won the 28th District House seat vacated by Republican Elaine Farmer, who was ill with cancer, and in 2001, Orie succeeded Melissa Hart in the state Senate's 40th District. Jan Rea, a local GOP activist and homemaker married to an influential banker, represents much of the same territory in Allegheny County Council. And Hart represents the region in Congress.
. . . Melvin was the first Republican woman elected to Allegheny Common Pleas Court. Earlier, as the city's chief magistrate, she established Pittsburgh's first domestic violence court, and later, an alternative sentencing program for juvenile offenders. Later, in 1997, she also became the first Republican woman elected to Superior Court -- although not without generating some headlines about her gender, when a member of a Pennsylvania Bar Association committee asked during an evaluation session how she would take care of her six young children if elected to statewide judicial office.
Photo: Joan Orie Melvin and Jane Orie, 2001. Post-Gazette