- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has dropped her appeal of her campaign corruption conviction and has submitted drafts of apology letters she is ordered to send to other state judges and former staffers while serving her house arrest sentence.

Allegheny County prosecutors had said they were going to argue for a 2½- to 5-year prison term had Melvin won resentencing or a new trial during her Pennsylvania Supreme Court appeal - but District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. contends Melvin proposed letters “can hardly be considered an apology” because they attempt to steer blame away from herself.

Melvin’s attorneys notified the state’s high court late Monday that Melvin is ending her appeals and wants to begin serving her three years’ house arrest as soon as possible.

The Superior Court had previously upheld Melvin’s conviction and sentence, and ruled she had to send the apology letters. But the lower appeals court had rejected Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus’ order that Melvin write the apologies on copies of autographed pictures he had taken of her in handcuffs immediately after her sentencing.

Melvin’s attorney, Patrick Casey, said he had no immediate comment on Melvin’s decision to end her appeals or on Zappala’s objections to Melvin’s proposed apologies.

“I was accused of misusing my office to assist in my campaigns for Supreme Court in 2003 and 2009. I plead not guilty. I was afforded a trial and I was found guilty,” Melvin wrote in the attached apology letters. “I have now exhausted my direct appeal rights. As a matter of law, I am guilty of these offenses.”

Zappala objected to another paragraph in which Melvin wrote, “In reflection, I wish I had been more diligent in my supervision of my staff and that I had given them more careful instructions with respect to the prohibition on political activity.”

Zappala said his staff has forwarded their “concerns” over Melvin’s language to Nauhaus, who didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

“While Ms. Orie-Melvin contends in her filing that she wishes to resume her entire sentence including the issuance of letters of apology, attempting to deflect blame for her actions to members of her staff can hardly be considered an apology,” Zappala said in a statement.

The Supreme Court earlier this month stayed Melvin’s entire sentence, meaning she wasn’t getting credit for serving house arrest while the appeal of last year’s conviction played out. A jury found she used her former state-paid Superior Court staffers and those of her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie, to work on her 2003 and 2009 campaigns for the state Supreme Court.

Melvin had argued that forcing her to apologize violated her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because she continued to contest her guilt on appeal. Prosecutors had argued that Melvin apologized for her conduct before she was sentence, rendering that issue moot.

Although the Superior Court rejected Melvin’s overall argument, those judges did find that the handcuffed photo requirement imposed by Judge Nauhaus served no legitimate purpose and was meant only to “shame and humiliate her.”

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office argued Nauhaus decided not to sentence Melvin to state prison only because the judge felt the court-ordered apology - in conjunction with the other terms of the sentence - would sufficiently punish and rehabilitate Melvin, whom he had chided for her “stunning arrogance.” Melvin must also pay a $55,000 fine and work in a soup kitchen.

Melvin’s apology letters said, “This has been a humiliating experience. It has likewise brought unfathomable distress to my family.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide