- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The district attorney wants the state Supreme Court to delay former Justice Joan Orie Melvin’s entire sentence for campaign corruption - not just the requirement that she apologize to every judge in the state - while she again appeals her conviction and sentence.

Melvin, 58, of Wexford, was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to three years of probation on house arrest and ordered to perform community service in a soup kitchen. She was fined $55,000. And she was ordered to send an apology to every judge in the state - written on copies of pictures that Allegheny County Judge Lester Nauhaus ordered taken of her in handcuffs.

In August, the state Superior Court upheld her conviction and sentence, including writing the apology letters - but not on the pictures. Instead, that court found that the photo requirement served no legitimate purpose and was meant only to “shame and humiliate her.”

Melvin is appealing to the Supreme Court because she still hopes to have her conviction and the entire sentence overturned. But in the meantime, she wants to serve all aspects of her sentence except for writing the apology letters. By doing so, Melvin would get credit for time served, which means a substantial portion of her house arrest term could be satisfied by the time the Supreme Court decides her appeal.

District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office contends in a filing Tuesday that that’s not fair.

The prosecutors argue that Nauhaus decided not to sentence Melvin to jail in part because he 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.”

Zappala’s office had argued for 2½ to 5 years in prison. In Tuesday’s filing, the prosecutors argue that if any part of Melvin’s sentence is overturned on appeal, she should be resentenced from scratch because Nauhaus’ sentencing plan would have been “disrupted.”

Melvin was convicted of using her state-paid Superior Court staff - and the state-paid staff of her sister, former state Sen. Jane Orie - to run her campaigns for a state Supreme Court seat in 2003 and 2009. She won a seat on the state’s highest court in 2009.

When Melvin appealed to the Superior Court, her attorneys asked Nauhaus to stay the apology portion of her sentence on the grounds that it forced her to admit guilt while that was still being contested. Nauhaus, instead, stayed the entire sentence, telling Melvin’s attorneys they were wrongly “cherry picking” only the part of the sentence Melvin disliked.

Melvin’s attorney, Patrick Casey, declined to comment on the district attorney’s latest filing.


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