The judge was right
As he sentenced former state Senator Jane Orie on Monday to 2½ to 10 years in state prison, it was easy to understand why Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey A. Manning was particularly disturbed by her attempts to cover up her crimes.
Ms. Orie not only is a former state senator convicted of using her publicly paid staff for political purposes and submitting forged documents in an attempt at a cover-up. She is a lawyer and former prosecutor who faced an even higher duty to the court than she did solely as a state senator.
"The sin is overborn by the deflection, the crime overshadowed by the cover-up," Judge Manning said. He called March 3, 2011, the day of the discovery of the forged documents, "the most disturbing and disheartening" day he has experienced in his 24-year judicial career.
For corruption-weary Pennsylvanians, however, Ms. Orie's attempt to deceive the court was another day at the office - the cover-up was an extension of the crime rather than worse than the crime. Having abused the public's trust to enhance her political advantage, why wouldn't she carry that very same mind-set into court?
The major difference here is that the judge rightly has expressed his dismay whereas the state Legislature, where Ms. Orie's name is just the latest addition on the wall of shame, has done no such thing.
After the federal convictions of two powerful state senators, state-level convictions of two former speakers of the House and a Democratic whip, along with a boatload of legislative staffers, and Ms. Orie's conviction at the county level, the state Legislature has done little by way of reform. It still largely is exempt from the Right to Know Law; it continues to sit on scores of millions of public money for its own use.
These convictions should produce the level of dismay expressed by the judge, along with commensurate reform.