Pa. senator, sister to be tried on ethics charges

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A western Pennsylvania lawmaker and one of her sisters will stand trial on charges they used the state senator's taxpayer-funded staff for campaign work for herself and another sister, a state Supreme Court justice, a judge ruled Wednesday.

State Sen. Jane Orie and her sister, Janine, were charged in April with using Jane Orie's legislative staff to conduct campaign business. Janine Orie was an aide to their sister Joan Orie Melvin while she was on the Superior Court and during the judge's two previous runs for the Supreme Court. Janine Orie is on paid suspension from that job.

After three days of testimony from former staffers, Allegheny County Judge Donna Jo McDaniel heard brief closing arguments and immediately ruled that the sisters were to stand trial on all charges.

Attorneys for both women said they were not surprised at the judge's decision but said they were confident of their chances at trial.

Jane Orie's attorney, William Costopoulous, called the evidence put forth by prosecutors as "trivial." He acknowledged staff members performed campaign work, but said they did so at their own volition or on compensatory time.

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