Judge convicted of corruption is ordered to send a photo of herself with a signed apology to all 500 judges in PennsylvaniaA Pennsylvania judge has ruled that a fellow jurist, convicted of corruption charges, must send a photo of herself signed with an apology to all of her former judicial colleagues.
Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin avoided prison time on Tuesday for her campaign corruption conviction but was ordered to send notes of contrition to judges because she abused her office.
At her sentencing hearing in Pittsburgh, Penn., Judge Lester Nauhaus chided Melvin for engaging in crimes of ‘arrogance’ and ordered her to immediately have her picture taken by a county photographer, so she can write apologies on them and send them to several hundred state judges.
Although Nauhaus didn’t imprison the women as prosecutors hoped, he admonished Melvin for claiming to be a role model for her children.
‘What kind of role model are you? These are felonies, this isn’t a parking ticket, and your children’s mother is a convicted felon,’ Nauhaus told Melvin, 57, a married mother of six.
Melvin, a devout Catholic, was sentenced to three years of house arrest during which she may leave only for church – unless she receives specific permission from the judge for other activities – followed by two years’ probation. She is also barred from referring to herself as a judge while under sentence.
One Melvin staffer said she was shunned by Janine Orie and Melvin after objecting to the campaign work and another, law clerk Lisa Sasinoski, claimed she was fired – although jurors were unable to reach a verdict on a count of official oppression relating to that claim.
‘She violated the law, she ruined the lives of an awful lot of people,’ Nauhaus said in explaining Melvin’s sentence.
Nauhaus also ordered the sisters to write letters of apology to any staff who were made to do the illegal work.
Nauhaus also fined Melvin $55,000.
Although Melvin will likely lose a state pension estimated at $140,000 annually, she was entitled to a refund of her payroll pension contributions.
Nauhaus said the fine – and still-to-be-determined court costs and restitution – are designed to ‘exhaust’ the pension money.
Deputy District Attorney Lawrence Claus had asked for a sentence similar to the 2 ½- to 10-year prison sentence Jane Orie is serving.
The 51-year-old ex-lawmaker was convicted of misusing her state-funded Senate staff on her own campaigns, and forging defense documents used at her initial mistrial, though she was acquitted of making her staff campaign for Melvin, too.
Melvin’s attorney, Patrick Casey, argued for probation noting that the aggregate value of the illegal campaign work Melvin received from state-paid staffers was about $34,000.
Nauhaus acknowledged the illegal work was a pittance compared to roughly $1 million Melvin reportedly spent on each of her Supreme Court campaigns, but said arrogance, not necessity, drove the abuses.
‘I don’t believe that Joan Melvin is an evil person, I’ve never believed that,’ Nauhaus told the courtroom. ‘But I do believe that her arrogance is stunning.’