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May 6, 2014

State news in brief | Suspect wants confession nixed

SUNBURY — A woman charged with her newlywed husband with luring a Pennsylvania man through Craigslist and killing him says her confession should be thrown out because she wasn’t given an attorney.

Miranda Barbour was in Northumberland County court on Tuesday.

Investigators say she stabbed 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara about 20 times in her parked car as husband Elytte Barbour held a cord tight against his neck from the back seat and then dumped his body in an alley. They have pleaded not guilty.

On Dec. 2 and Dec. 3, Barbour voluntarily went to be interviewed at the state police barracks near Selinsgrove.

The Snyder County district attorney testified Barbour wasn’t given a public defender during the interview because she wasn’t under arrest or charged with anything.

McGinty keeping ads positive

HARRISBURG – Nearly a month of finger-pointing and attack ads by her three opponents in Pennsylvania’s Democratic gubernatorial race is providing Katie McGinty an opening for her end-game strategy: accentuating the positive.

“Voters don’t like politics as usual. I think voters don’t like gridlock,” McGinty said Tuesday in a telephone interview between campaign appearances. “Voters want to see someone who’s about finding a solution ... getting it done and working hard.”

Trailing in fundraising and independent polling, McGinty expanded her TV advertising into the expensive Philadelphia media market for the first time Monday. She said her campaign will stay on the air in that heavily Democratic region through the May 20 primary.

“I think we’re hitting it at just the right time,” when voters are paying attention, said McGinty, 50, a former state environmental protection secretary and former environmental adviser to the Clinton White House who’s endorsed by former Vice President Al Gore.

Orie denies guilt, forgeries

MCCANDLESS – Former Pittsburgh-area Republican state Sen. Jane Orie still insists she’s innocent of corruption and forgery charges that sent her to prison for nearly two years.

Orie, 52, issued those denials in the first part of an exclusive interview with WTAE-TV that aired Monday night, her first public comments since her 2012 conviction and release from prison in February.

Orie said other inmates continued to address her as “senator” at state prisons in Muncy and, later, Cambridge Springs, where she served the bulk of her sentence, about two hours north of her home in Pittsburgh’s North Hills suburbs.

Orie was sentenced to 21/2 to 10 years in 2012, but was released after serving 75 percent of her minimum sentence under state rules for nonviolent first offenders.

“For me, it was hell on earth,” Orie said.

Orie was convicted of 14 counts including theft of services, conflict of interest and forgery. The forgery charges stemmed from documents she and defense attorney William Costopoulos introduced at her first trial in 2011 that were meant to discredit a key witness, prompting a mistrial.

“Unequivocally, no, I didn’t commit those forgeries,” Orie said. Prosecutors never proved who created the documents, but Orie became criminally responsible when she vouched for their authenticity during her trial testimony.

“Whoever did those forgeries either did it because they thought they were helping me, or the more scarier thought is they did it to really hurt me.”

The conviction on the non-forgery charges stemmed from Orie using her state-funded legislative staff to perform campaign work for her.

She continued to explain away that portion of her conviction, saying a “Senate rule allowed them to do campaign work on comp time in the office on their own cellphones, on their phones, that was the main crux of what I was convicted of.”

But Allegheny County prosecutors produced evidence that Orie required the work be done in her office, on state time, and had workers claim to use comp time only after she learned of the investigation.

Nobody answered the phone at Orie’s home Tuesday, and Costopoulos – who wants the state Supreme Court to review a Superior Court decision upholding Orie’s conviction – didn’t immediately return a call.

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