An Orie Juror speaks

I was contacted this week by an Orie juror who I learned shares several mutual friends with me.

He took great care to show me pictures that proved he was on the jury, such as pictures of the jury instructions, etc.

His name is Joe Rostan and he took the time to email me his feelings about the trial, the sisters, and which way he thought his fellow jurors were leaning. He said the jury was given no gag order or any instructions about not talking to the media. Simply dismissed and told thank you for their service.

This is Joe and his words follow.

Because it is a quite lengthy post, I’ve put half of it behind a “more” link. Click to read the rest.

On being picked for the jury:

When I showed up for jury duty, I knew they were picking jurors for that trial. I got called in to be interviewed and with every intention of trying to get out of it. How I planned to act, and how I acted changed dramatically when being questioned by the assistant DA, a judge, several attorneys, a senator, and all of them with paperwork that already seemed as though they did an initial non-scientific background check on me. They knew I was picked from voter registration records and I was republican. They had papers that had google URLs on them. So, making up reasons why I wasn’t a suitable juror wasn’t worth looking like a fucktard (my word… Use it as you wish. Most people like it) and… I was on the jury.

On at what point in time the forged documents were first introduced:

Those documents were first introduced by the defense when Jamie Pavlot was cross examined by Costopolous, the attorney for the senator.  Now, they were introduced at that time, but we were not able to see them because Jamie Pavlot methodically denied ever seeing any of the handwritten notations on them.  (She verified that the documents were written to her, with her email address, from the senator, but DENIED ever seeing the hand written notations of them) About 50 documents as I recall.  Then, the documents were brought up again when the senator took the stand.  My impression was that because those docs being such a big part of their case, the senator needed to identify them since her chief of staff couldn’t. I question whether the senator would have taken the stand at all if the defense didn’t NEED to get those entered into evidence and have the jury see them.

When the senator was on the stand, she was cross examined.  The snip and pasted signature was on a document that outlined policy within the legislative office.  It was signed by the employee and Jamie Pavlot (allegedly). The document boldly stated on the second page of the 2 page document that “No comp time would be given for work that was political in nature” and something about doing that work on your personal time.  Mr. Claus asked the senator if she noticed the signature was odd.  And whether or not she noticed the crookedness of the signing.  (namely, that the signature line didn’t line up with the obviously printed line) and that the last “s” in the word “Witness” was cut off (or covered as it may be). The senator said that she didn’t see anything wrong with it.  And then the questioning moved on.  The jury, like I said, all raised a brow when it was pointed out.

Almost all of those handwritten notes, introduced by the defense while Jamie Pavlot was on the stand for the Commonwealth, were on printed off emails. Come on! Who prints off an email, writes a response on it with a pen, then hands it to the person who sent it to you!?!?  No way. You get an email, you click reply, type what you need to say and  click send. Done. Those handwritten notations were so descriptive and pertinent to the case, it seemed way too planted. Then the cut (with scissors) and pasted (with glue) signature from Jamie Pavlot that looks like it slipped out of place when put face down on the copier.

On Janine Orie:

My impression of Janine Orie was that she had a minimal amount of contact with the legislative staff. While working for the Judge Orie Melvin, she did work with a paid fundraiser. And the senator was the pro-life caucus leader in the senate and had actual legislative duty to write letters of reference on her behalf. She just happened to be related to her too. She would have surely been found not guilty. The jury hardly considered her when we spoke.

On why he had reasonable doubt:

I tried to imagine what non-work things I did at various jobs I’ve had. The way the Asst. DA made it sound and the way he methodically pointed out, “You sent an email!!! On a senate computer!!! During the day!!!!!” My God, the stick up this guy’s ass. Geez. I felt guilty for every YouTube video, happy hour planning email, funny cat with lime peel on its head picture I’ve ever looked at or read at work. Everyone I know has done something of that nature. Some of their presentation was really pushing it a little.

The reasonable doubt came from 61 character witnesses. The woman seemed like a workaholic. Driven. And expected a lot of her staff. The staff DID HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN MAKING SURE SHE WAS RE-ELECTED. If she wasn’t re-elected, they didn’t have jobs. I did see records supporting that work was done on personal time, off the clock in one form or the other. There was room for interpretation. Reasonable doubt.

One thing was when it was pointed out that, as it was documented by email and text records, that the senator (hold on to your hats!) sent an email to someone from her blackberry to their senate email address! It was asked “why couldn’t you have called her!?!?” by the prosecution. The senator looked up at the projected screen, and said “it was 1:30 in the morning, she has 6 kids. I wasn’t going to call her then. My blackberry had that email set as a default. I didn’t think about it.” That point was noticed by the jury. That she was doing all sorts of work during any hour. She owed the state 7.5 hours a day… And they got a lot more than that.

On why the forgeries didn’t cause a halt immediately to proceedings:

As far as why an issue wasn’t brought up about it before going into deliberations, I can only speculate.  Perhaps that is when they found the exact matching signature on another document? Perhaps when the document was on the screen was the first time Mr. Claus noticed it and asked the senator about it on a whim and didn’t have time to develop the issue? Perhaps since the jury was in the second day of deliberations, and the prosecution thought a quicker verdict pointed to guilty, they saved that bit of info to stop the whole thing? I don’t know why it took a few extra days for it to come out.

The jury’s reaction to the mistrial:

The jury was frustrated.  Sitting through the entire trial, you can imagine that most wanted to finally do our part… and do what we were called to do.  Instead, the jury was stopped abruptly and relieved in a matter of hours.  I don’t think any of the jury envied the next group to hear the case.  It was grueling.  Many battled home and personal issues.  One woman’s grandmother died during the trial.  She was given 3 hours.  3 HOURS! Told to be back by the end of lunch the following day.  That’s tough.  I personally took a big financial hit being on the jury.  Thousands of dollars lost.  My employer gave me the time, but did not pay me while I was gone.

On which way the jury was leaning:

I think the jury would have found Janine (the sister) not guilty.

I think the jury would have found Jane Orie not guilty as well, based on reasonable doubt and the very specific instructions given to us by the judge after he instructed us on the law… ON SOME OF THE CHARGES. On other charges, I think it would have taken some time to come to a conclusion. I would have initially voted for a non-guilty verdict across the board, based on the evidence the jury was presented.  Remember, we weren’t privy to all the news stories and side show stuff everyone else was. Some of the evidence was just really stretching it as to what was being done.

 





25 Comments

  1. empirechick
    March 8, 2011 1:37 pm

    So it seems that the speculators who questioned why the prosecution waited so long to mention the forged documents (LawGod among others, I think), were right on the money. The docs were initially presented when Pavlot was on the stand, then Mr. Claus asked Sen. Orie about the signatures when she was on the stand. Not making more out of it until 2 days into deliberations seems like poor lawyering to me.

    In other news, Gov. Corbett is slashing education funding – too bad the money wasted on this trial (and the next one) couldn’t be used there.



  2. Scott
    March 8, 2011 1:47 pm

    I don’t know why the Orie trial makes me so angry, but it does. My gut just screams to me that these are bad, corrupt people. Maybe I’m naive, but who knows.

    Anyway, I’m no lawyer, but it would seem that by forging the documents, which she clearly did, Orie may wind up in far worse legal trouble than she was in previously.



  3. TwinmamaTeb
    March 8, 2011 1:55 pm

    What is the penalty for forgery in a trial? Do they try her again, and scream from the rooftops that she forged the documents?



  4. sauerkraut
    March 8, 2011 2:04 pm

    There was a delay in fully raising the issue because they needed to have an expert review the document. Experts are never immediately available but the issue could have been raised with the judge earlier.

    The juror is too presumptuous in stating the Janine would have been found not guilty. Deliberations really just started on a long trial. And he focuses too much on “pro-life” business. That is irrelevant and should part of the voire dire on the next round.



  5. wagon
    March 8, 2011 2:07 pm

    The issue is using your non-campaign staff (paid by the state) for your campaign work. The issue isn’t people screwing around at work. I wasn’t a juror like this dude, but it seemed to me from the news reports that it was clear Orie was having her regular staff do campaign work.



  6. empirechick
    March 8, 2011 2:11 pm

    @wagon – what jurors are presented in the courtroom is very different from we see on TV. See one “Simpson, OJ’ as an example.



  7. Susan
    March 8, 2011 2:50 pm

    I hope our senators don’t think they only owe the state 7.5 hours a day. Granted 1:30am might be a bit extreme, but it’s clearly supposed to be much more than a 40 hour a week job.



  8. Tim
    March 8, 2011 4:01 pm

    If this guy was on the Veon jury – Veon would have not gone to jail. Same exact stuff put him away for 5-7 years. He was a workaholic who used emails to talk about political stuff.



  9. Andy T
    March 8, 2011 4:16 pm

    Momentarily ignoring the perjury & forgery sideshow, what I would say is most surprising about the juror’s comments is his comparison of transgressions at his job with what is alleged to have occurred at the Senator’s office. It is an entirely different level of wrongdoing to slack off while privately employed versus an organized conspiracy to direct employees and use other office resources funded with taxpayer dollars to seek reelection of yourself and your family. Both are wrong, but one is explicitly criminal. Guess which is which.



  10. Justin
    March 8, 2011 4:28 pm

    I still haven’t seen any evidence that shows the Orie camp forged these signatures. Obviously I agree that they are forgeries, however, what’s to prove that they were forged by Jane or her legal team with the intent to use at this trial? There are plenty of other people with motive and stand to benefit with Sen. Orie remaining in her seat (staff, etc.) I just can’t picture a competent lawyer presenting these at trial as a cornerstone of his/her case with these terrible forgeries done in-house.

    Perhaps a more likely story is that an Orie employee forged these docs because he/she was supposed to get a signature on them by Pavlot when they were created but never did. In covering his/her own ass at work he/she forged the documents for the file. An incompetent research assistant for the case may have come across them and included them in the file for the defense. I would much rather believe that story than a high priced attorney cutting & pasting these with a glue stick to present at trial.



  11. Juror Nullification
    March 8, 2011 4:37 pm

    A. There’s generally a huge difference between what we read in the papers, what a jury is exposed to and what we think we “know”
    B. Perhaps the jury noticed the pink elephant in the front lawn w/the giant “Z” tattooed on its *ss- did Zappala selectively prosecute Jane Orie because she called his father on the carpet or did he just not notice the behavior of the dozens and dozens of democractic machine members in his back yard who engage in this behavior every day (gee, I’m guessing that Stevie would get the dem endorsement again if he was running this year)
    C. Even though I’m guessing that Jane and her sisters doctored the evidence in question (pure guess on my part – no basis other than common sense/intuition), I’m fascinated by the fact that this juror picked up on the same thing the rest of us did – that Claus at least recognized the possibility of doctoring when he had Jane on the stand, but he either withheld his objection until he realized he was losing the jury deliberation or he’s just not that quick on his feet – either way, there seems to be a very legitimate question of whether the DA’s office waived its objection by failing to timely raise it during Jane’s cross examination.
    4. And why didn’t Jeff Manning chastise the prosecution for this blunder? It was so obvious that Ray Charles could see it, but it took the prosecution days to figure it out? Fishy, and it tells me a lot about the competence of our DA’s office.



  12. fnnygrl
    March 8, 2011 4:58 pm

    People seem to forget that the info of Orie was brought to the DA’s office by the intern only after Tom Corbet referred them there. The DA did not go out looking to prosecute them. The info needed to be investigated.
    This was probably a strategic move of the prosecution which is what a good attorney does.
    There are all kinds of possibilities of who did the “cut, copy and pasting” of the signatures, but who would have been the most motivated to do so? I also don’t think the defense advised his client to do this. I think they are on their own in with this one. Guilty



  13. toni
    March 8, 2011 5:30 pm

    Look, I’m going to point out a few Zapalla tie in’s that any of you can google up for results.

    Zappalla’s dad is a retired judge…the dad and Zappalla’s sister are on the gambling board. Guess what Sen Jane Orie was going after with blazing guns……you got it….the gambling casino.

    Anyone remember the 2 Luzerne county judges that were sentenced for the scandal of getting kickbacks sending “juvenile deliquents” to a Butler county and another facility in Luzerne county??? “Cash for Kids.”

    Well Judge Jane Orie Melvin was running for office against a Judge named Panella. The Orie Melvin ads ran a campaign against Panella tying him in with the Luzerne scandal. He was, I believe, the head of a committee that had originally found those 2 judges free of wrong doing.

    Not only that, Zappalla’s brother, Gary had control of the facilities where those “Cash for Kids” deliquents were sent to. In fact, the partner that Gary took over control of the facilities from was a lawyer who was tied to the 2 judges and found to have PAID the kickbacks.

    Am I saying Orie’s innocent? No, I can’t state that, I don’t know. But I can emphatically state theres far to much Zappalla involvement that revolved around what I percieve as harassment of the Orie family. Judge Orie Melvin is feeling heat with the implication that they are possibly looking into background issues with her. Janine Orie was pulled into this court trial.

    For those of you who think this was ONLY about Sen Orie illegally using tax payer monies or state time to conduct voting campaigns…well, I have some land to sell you in Florida.



  14. Butcher's Dog
    March 8, 2011 5:40 pm

    @Justin: perhaps it was some “cover-my-ass” staffer who did the cut and paste. But if it’s MY trial and MY attorney introduces fishy evidence, I’m guessin’ that it’s gonna be MY job to prove I didn’t know about it. And that would basically require some staffer to fall on his sword for the team. Even money at best, and I’m not feeling real confident for the Ories right now.



  15. fnnygrl
    March 8, 2011 5:50 pm

    Everybody is tied in with somebody in the legal and political world. Its like that in any profession so I’m not impressed with that theory.
    If you ever ran an agency for delinquent kids you would understand that referrals come from the counties and you basically have no control over who you get to service. The Judges sent them there. I don’t remember Gregg Zapalla even being mentioned in the actual investigations except for the media pointing out his brother was Alleg. Co. D/A and father a justice. He was an “after the fact” guy. He wasn’t charged with anything. Oh, right. The Zapalla’s are so powerful they can control who is indicted? That’s why the D/A has been a County employee for years. Lots of power. Unless people can prove some valid wrong doing, leave the invesigative work to the professionals.



  16. toni
    March 8, 2011 5:51 pm

    Butcher’s Dog……. and thats wwhat SUCKS about having a mistrial. Because if Orie’s innocent she will always be smeared by the forgery and non-ending of this trial.

    If guilty, there was no justice. There’s no sense of ending or completion to this situation.

    I do know one thing, if Claus brought up the issue of signature discrepency and then did not see it to completion then that is incompetency at the highest level. We should prosecute HIM, for wasting tax payer time and money.



  17. toni
    March 8, 2011 5:54 pm

    fnnygrl said:

    Unless people can prove some valid wrong doing, leave the invesigative work to the professionals.

    fnnygrl said:

    There are all kinds of possibilities of who did the “cut, copy and pasting” of the signatures, but who would have been the most motivated to do so? I also don’t think the defense advised his client to do this. I think they are on their own in with this one. Guilty

    Hmmmm, seems you should take your own advice.



  18. fnnygrl
    March 8, 2011 5:59 pm

    and fucktard is a great adjective.



  19. XTheOwl
    March 8, 2011 6:22 pm

    I agree with toni,

    The amount of influence the Zapalla’s have not only in our region but throughout Harrisburg is Chilling! Rich Lord of the PG has just published a 3-part investigative piece in this weeks PG exposing the Crony-ism that is purvasive in our city. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but this feature article may raise your eyebrows a bit.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10255/1086909-454.stm

    This is the flow chart explianing who is scratching whos back etc.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/pdf/201009/20100912network.pdf



  20. TC
    March 8, 2011 6:51 pm

    Jane testified that it was her handwriting on that document, so it seems pretty clear that she was directly involved in the forgery.

    As for the juror, yes YouTube is certainly not an efficient use of tax dollars, but campaigning is an illegal use, period. Doesn’t matter how hardworking Jane was, or how much everyone liked her. Guilty is guilty, otherwise what’s the point of having laws and a justice system?



  21. PittCheMBA
    March 8, 2011 10:31 pm

    Ginny, as usual, you seem to be very well connected. Thank you for sharing what was shared with you. It was very informative hearing what a juror thought of this whole mess. Thanks again for the inside scoop.



  22. Legallypgh(Kathy)
    March 9, 2011 10:23 am

    Although I believe the documents were forged by someone fairly high-up in the Orie camp, I also can tell you that it is a “practice” to try to purposefully get a mistrial when things are going bad for either side. So, it does make me wonder why Claus waited as long as he did to bring it to the Judge’s attention when he clearly noticed the issue as he was watching the cross-exam of Pavlot. With that said, I think Orie is now in a bigger bind with submitting forged documents than she would have been just going along on her trial. I think many of us can at least fathom that every state representative does this (doesn’t make it right) but Orie was targeted…but I cannot understand why they would create documents to try and support their case…and that is where she will lose any support.



  23. Erin
    March 9, 2011 12:07 pm

    I’m not sure I trust Charlie Sheen to sit on the Orie jury!



  24. Ol'Froth
    March 9, 2011 1:27 pm

    Its the cover up that gets you. Ask Nixon.



  25. crazyburghcases
    April 22, 2011 2:46 pm

    I have been watching this case with great interest. I can’t believe the forgery part of it and I can’t believe the juror talking out of school, however, all of it gives great insight into how these issues are regarded.

    After the Cyril Wecht case, I was left to believe that the government might have something better to do with its time than go after cases like this. That case was obviously so terribly investigated and poorly prosecuted that it was frightening to read about. Is there something in the three rivers that is making the Pittsburgh U.S. attorney’s and state’s attorney’s offices chase, refuse to reasonably settle and essentially manage cases like this? They are nonsensical, frivolous and has an undercurrent of outside influence swimming around them. How many of the more recent indictments in white collar crime could be reasonably settled? How many of them have been essentially disputes that should be handled in other venues? There are many, many other ways to handle such cases rather than to bring them to trial and result in a tremendous waste of tax payer resources.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to downplay the importance of tackling fraud or public corruption. I also understand that the directive from D.C. is to go charging after while collar crimes (because they have failed miserably to get the big guys and gals, so are doubling down on their efforts by going after those who have done little wrong by comparison), but that being said, isn’t there a public official or person who is actually causing serious harm that they could go after? How about the mortgage scam people?

    perhaps my comments are off the beaten path, but I am hard pressed to understand how these types of cases are becoming seemingly the norm in Pittsburgh. Where are we headed to as a county if this is what our public proscutors deem as resource worthy?