Courthouse stepsBy now you've surely read Dennis Roddy's full piece on the Orie preliminary hearing, which reminds us once again how wild and convoluted Pittsburgh politics can be. First off are the alleged threats against Stephen A. Zappala Jr., but let's not forget what else happened in the same majestic courthouse regarding the DA's family just a couple days ago. That's below. But first, from Dennis:

Robert Kramm, described as a political consultant for the Laborers' District Council of Western Pennsylvania, met Nov. 19 with officials at the district attorney's office. According to the affidavit filed by district attorney Detective Lyle Graber. Mr. Kramm said the Orie sisters had asked him to convey a series of messages that included a threat to launch a "Wecht style" attack if District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. allowed the investigation to continue.

. . . "During this meeting, Kramm stated that he had been asked to meet with Senator [Jane] Orie and her sister Judge Joan Orie Melvin earlier that day. Kramm stated that the Orie sisters had asked him at this meeting to convey a message to District Attorney Zappala" regarding the office's criminal probe of the senator.

Among the allegations -- some of which were later raised by attorney Jerry McDevitt, who represented the senator during the probe -- were claims that deputy district attorney Lawrence Claus, who headed up the Orie investigation, had been fired from a job at the state attorney general's office after a complaint against him by Jane Orie.

In subsequent days, after the investigation became public, Dr. Wecht took to the airwaves to criticize Mr. Zappala and the DA's office and its probe into Ms. Orie.

Let's recall one of the main instigators of the Orie/Zappala fight, according to the Ories -- Jane Orie's questioning of the family's ties to gaming interests via the Pennsylvania Casino Association. The chairman of the group was Stephen Zappala Sr., the DA's father and former state Supreme Court chief justice. The group's Pittsburgh director was Michele Zappala Peck, the DA's sister.
Which brings us -- and the Zappalas -- back to the marble halls of H.H. Richardson's masterpiece.

You may have missed it, as it was in Saturday's paper, but Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning on Friday threw out a confession by a Mt. Lebanon volunteer firefighter in April 2009 that he set fire to a trash can in a six-unit apartment building, leading him to face counts of arson, reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe. Manning -- who last year cleared an off-duty cop who pistol-whipped and shot a man after drinking on the South Side -- also helped clear the way for the firefighter to get off free in the latest case, ruling he was denied his right to a lawyer during questioning. (Prosecutors said he was never under arrest, and thus didn't need his rights read.)

The firefighter's name is Gene Peck -- son of the casino office director, and nephew of the DA.

There's another Grant Street twist. The prosecution in the firefighter's case is being handled by . . . Attorney General (and Republican gubernatorial candidate) Tom Corbett's office.Corbett's office passed on the chance to investigate the original claims against Orie, leading them to be lodged in Zappala's office.
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