Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pa. court affirms Melvin's conviction

It also backs her writing apology letters to ex-staff and fellow judges.

Former Pa. Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was found guilty of six of seven counts in 2012.
Former Pa. Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was found guilty of six of seven counts in 2012. AP
The state Superior Court on Thursday affirmed the conviction of former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

The panel also affirmed the part of Melvin's sentence requiring her to send apology notes to her former staff and fellow state judges, but it eliminated the requirement that she do so on a picture taken of her in handcuffs.

"The trial court unquestionably staged the photograph for maximum effect," wrote Judge Christine Donohue. "At the time it was taken [immediately after sentencing], Orie Melvin was no longer in police custody and was otherwise free to go home to begin house arrest. She was not in restraints at that time, and the trial court directed that she be placed in handcuffs only to take the photograph.

"The trial court's use of the handcuffs as a prop is emblematic of the intent to humiliate Orie Melvin in the eyes of her former judicial colleagues."

The panel said it would enforce the idea of writing apology letters because it "addresses the trial court's intent to rehabilitate her by requiring her to acknowledge her wrongdoing."

It also affirmed the related conviction of Melvin's sister Janine Orie, who was on Melvin's judicial staff.

In its 114-page opinion, the court also reversed the order of Common Pleas Court Judge Lester Nauhaus, who in November stayed Melvin's criminal sentence pending appeal.

Melvin was found guilty of six of seven counts against her, including theft of services, conspiracy, and misapplication of entrusted property.

Nauhaus ordered her to serve three years of house arrest, pay a fine, work in a soup kitchen, and write the letters of apology.

She appealed her conviction and sentence on a number of grounds, including that the apology letters violated her right against self-incrimination.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

Paula Reed Ward Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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