The Cautionary Instruction: It’s good to be the … ah … judge

Friday, 10 May 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Matt Mangino

20111230 justicejoanoriemelvin 150This week, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lester G. Nauhaus sentenced former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin in connection with her conviction on political corruption charges related to the misuse of staff for campaign purposes.

There have been a number of public officials in Pennsylvania convicted and sentenced in recent years for campaign corruption. Orie Melvin was the only judge -- the rest were lawmakers. Let’s take a look at the scorecard:

Lawmakers:

Former Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in prison and to pay $1 million in restitution for his role in a scheme to use public resources for campaign purposes.

The once powerful lawmaker was sentenced by Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis.

Former Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Veon was sentenced to six to 14 years in prison for his role in a public corruption case that involved using public money and employees for campaign work. Veon was also ordered to pay a $37,000 fine and $100,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced by Lewis.

Former State Rep. Bill DeWeese, a longtime power broker in the state House, was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in prison on his convictions for using state-paid employees on his election campaigns.

Dauphin County President Judge Todd A. Hoover imposed the sentence, plus $25,000 in fines and $116,000 in restitution.

Former state Rep. Stephen Stetler was sentenced to 18 months to five years in prison for his conviction on charges involving the illegal use of state employees to perform campaign work.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hoover ordered Stetler to pay more than $466,000 in restitution and fines totaling $35,000.

Former Senator Vincent Fumo was convicted of defrauding the state Senate, a neighborhood nonprofit and a Philadelphia museum. At his 2009 sentencing he faced about 20 years.

A federal judge initially sentenced him to 55 months in prison. A federal appeals court threw out the sentence and Fumo was re-sentenced to 61 months in prison.

Former state Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow was sentenced in federal court to 16 months in prison, followed by three years supervised release.

Mellow pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for using taxpayer-paid Senate staffers to do political campaign work and for filing a bogus tax return.

Former state Sen. Jane Orie, sister of Orie Melvin, was sentenced to spend two and one-half to 10 years in prison for public corruption related to campaigning with state funds and employees, as well as forgery.

Judge:

Orie Melvin was sentenced to three years house arrest and ordered to send a picture of herself with an apology written on it to every member of the Pennsylvania judiciary.

The scorecard reveals that being a judge in Pennsylvania is a pretty good deal no matter what side of the bench the judge is on.

(Top image: Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin)


Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.