Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Peek Inside Orie World

Two trials in two cities offer a peek inside the world of state Sen. Jane Orie where things are not always as they seem.

A Peek Inside Orie World


I don't want to say that things sometimes get a little weird in the world of accused felon state Sen. Jane, wait, that's exactly what I want to say.

Two trials under way, one in Pittsburgh, one in Harrisburg, suggest that things inside that world aren't always what they seem.

To refresh your memory, Orie is on trial for a second time in Pittsburgh on charges she used her Senate office for campaign work, including helping her sister, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, win a seat on the high court. Another sister, Janine Orie, is also charged and faces trial at a later date. Their first trial ended in a mistrial amid charges of evidence tampering. And sister Joan is reportedly the target of an ongoing investigation.

Anywho, yesterday, a former aide to Senator Orie testified that staffers were told to pretend they were the Senator when making political calls from her office during business hours.

"We were to be the senator when we were making the calls," former aide Christine Bahr testified, "It would be as if I were making calls to you, I would [pretend] to be the senator."

In Harrisburg, meanwhile, a former Senate aide to Orie, Alan Berlin, is on trial on charges he tried to arrange a sexual encounter over the Internet with a 15-year old autistic boy.

Berlin, 43, is described as a "furry," or someone who dresses in animal costumes for fantasy roleplay -- in his case, as a panda bear.

I am not making this up.

Berlin's attorney told the jury that the furry community is "an imagination world where everybody pretends to be something they're not."

Hmmm. Seems to be a theme here.

And it sort of begs the question of who else in Orie world pretends to be something they're not.

By the way, I have it on good authority than panda bears do not growl. They bark, bleat, honk (you can, listen here), but they do not growl.


Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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