Prosecutors are trying to stop Sen. Jane Orie from issuing a letter to constituents seeking character witnesses for her corruption trial, saying it could taint the jury pool.
The Allegheny County District Attorney's office has asked the judge hearing the criminal case against state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, for a hearing to determine if she is trying to taint the jury pool in her upcoming trial by sending what it characterizes as a form letter to residents of her district.
The letter, attached to a motion filed Friday in Common Pleas Court, includes reference to the senator's faith and notes that she refused to take the legislative pay raise and has returned the cost of living adjustments that she received.
"This chapter in my life calls upon me to ask you to serve as a character witness for me in my upcoming trial ... I am asking you as a friend and supporter who truly know what I represent and what I stand for," the letter said.
It is signed by the senator, and includes a note at the end that the letter was "not paid for at taxpayer expense."
The letter suggests that recipients contact Ms. Orie's nephew, attorney Jonathan Orie, for inquiries.
In his motion, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Claus suggested that the letter is inappropriate -- both in its purpose and because he believes it violates the gag order in the case, issued by Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.
"The Commonwealth submits that this letter represents a blatant attempt to influence prospective members of the jury pool by defendant Jane C. Orie's professional achievements, her faith and her assurance to recipients that her 'integrity' and 'veracity' are such that she would 'never betray [her] constituents or the people of Pennsylvania."
Ms. Orie's defense attorney, William Costopoulos, was in trial today and could not be reached for comment.
Jack Orie, Ms. Orie's brother and a Downtown attorney, had no comment.
No hearing date has yet been set on the motion. Ms.Orie's trial on charges that she used staff members to do campaign work on state time and falsified evidence is scheduled to begin Feb. 27.