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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Jane Orie appeals criminal conviction, sentence to federal court

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PITTSBURGH — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Jane Orie filed a federal appeal Wednesday of her state criminal conviction and prison sentence, arguing as she has previously without success in state court that a second trial amounted to double jeopardy.

Orie had promised the appeal — filed in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh — after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to consider her case last September.

"I have always been known to be a fighter — and I fight for what I believe in and in what is right," Orie said then in an email to The Associated Press. "My case is by no means over, and I will aggressively pursue my appeal in federal court."

The suburban Pittsburgh Republican was convicted of campaign corruption and forgery charges in 2012 and served 22½ months in prison. Prosecutors say she used her state-paid Senate staff to run her re-election campaigns and introduced forged documents during her first trial in 2011, which ended in a mistrial.

Orie, 53, is on parole until about June 2022. She was released from prison in February 2014, having completed 75 percent of her minimum sentence.

In her appeal, she lists errors previously rejected by the state Superior Court but she argues sufficient to reverse her conviction and sentence. They include the argument that the second trial amounted to double jeopardy and the search warrants used to seize her office records were overly broad. She cites computer information that she says amounted to 36 pickup truckloads of paperwork, much of it privileged under Senate rules.

The appeal says that, unique to the case, investigators "without any notice, consultation with the legislative branch, or regard for potential issues of legislative privilege, raided a legislative office."

In similar investigations previously, prosecutors subpoenaed legislative records then legislative attorneys sifted through the records and provided the relevant information, Orie argues. In her case, a judge overseeing a grand jury appointed a law professor to review the seized material and determine what was privileged, while allowing prosecutors to sift through the rest.

A spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office, which prosecuted Orie, acknowledged the right of criminal defendants to argue state issues in federal court. But "The issues raised now, have been raised several times previously, and continue to have no merit," said spokesman Mike Manko.

Orie and her attorney, William Costopoulos, didn't return messages Wednesday seeking further comment.

Costopoulos previously told the AP that an appeals victory remains important to Orie because "it would go a long way to restoring something that is very important to her, her reputation." She might also regain her state pension and the opportunity to run again for elective office, though Costopoulos has said he's not sure she'd ever run again.

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