Kane hit with criminal charges

By Maryclaire Dale - Associated Press | August 6th, 2015 8:54 pm

NORRISTOWN — Pennsylvania’s attorney general was charged Thursday with leaking secret grand jury information to strike back at her critics, then lying about it under oath, in a case that could spell the downfall of the state’s highest-ranking female politician.

Kathleen Kane leaked the material to a political operative to pass it on to the media “in hopes of embarrassing and harming former state prosecutors she believed, without evidence, made her look bad,” Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

Kane, the first woman elected attorney general in Pennsylvania, was charged with perjury, obstruction, conspiracy and other offenses. The 49-year-old Democrat is expected to surrender within days.

“No one is above the law, not even the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Pennsylvania,” Ferman said. She called it “a sad day for the citizens of Pennsylvania and a sad day for all of us in law enforcement.”

Kane has portrayed herself as a victim of payback for taking on a corrupt, old-boy law enforcement network and exposing state employees for exchanging pornographic emails. She vowed to stay in office and fight the charges.

“A resignation would be an admission of guilt,” she said, “and I’m not guilty.”

A tumultuous tenure

The charges represent a new low in Kane’s tumultuous three years in office, a period that has seen an exodus of top aides, fumbled corruption cases and feuds with former prosecutors who served under her Republican predecessors.

While visiting State Street Elementary School in Larksville to push his proposal in the ongoing budget battle with the legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday faced the inevitable query about the charges filed against Kane.

“I don’t see how she can defend herself against such serious charges and fulfill her role as the state’s top law enforcement officer,” Wolf said, calling for Kane to step down.

Wolf’s plea echoed newspaper editorial pages across the state in recent months.

Kane had come under fire from some former prosecutors for declining to pursue charges against several lawmakers accused of taking illegal gifts.

The charges against her allege she struck back by leaking information to the Philadelphia Daily News last year that made it look as if prosecutors botched a 2009 probe into whether a Philadelphia NAACP official misused state job-training grants. The official was never charged.

The NAACP probe was headed by Frank Fina, who was a top prosecutor before Kane got elected. In court papers, Kane was accused of spilling the information to get even with Fina.

“I will not allow them to discredit me,” she wrote in a 2014 email to her media strategist. “This is war.”

Others charged

Kane is the second state attorney general in the U.S. to face criminal charges this week. She is also the second Pennsylvania attorney general charged in the last 20 years.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was charged on Monday with securities fraud. Ernest Preate resigned as Pennsylvania attorney general in 1995 and served a year in prison after pleading guilty to fraud related to a campaign contribution.

Kane’s driver and confidant, Patrick Reese, was charged Thursday with indirect criminal contempt for allegedly snooping in the office computers to keep Kane informed about the grand jury investigating the leak. A lawyer for Reese, a former police chief near Scranton, had no comment.

Ferman said authorities are still investigating allegations Kane fired a prosecutor whose testimony was used to build the leak case against her.

Kane has acknowledged giving information to the Daily News but denied it was covered by secrecy laws. She also contended the prosecutor was fired over his job performance, not in revenge.

In September, she exposed eight former employees of her office as having received or sent pornography on their state computers. Those named included several former top supervisors. Kane fired four officials, and a state Supreme Court justice also resigned in the scandal.

Disrupting status quo

Relying heavily on her trucking magnate husband’s wealth, the Scranton native campaigned as a disrupter of the status quo.

Kane initially earned praise after taking office and challenging the state ban on gay marriage and the three years it took to prosecute former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child molestation charges.

But some Republican lawmakers accused her of playing politics, and her star began to fall in 2014, especially after the grand jury leaks from her office.

Kane still received warm welcomes on her two visits to Luzerne County in the last 18 months, where Hazleton’s Republican Mayor Joe Yannuzzi and his police Chief, Frank DeAndrea, heaped praise and gratitude on her for sending agents to assist with drug busts and raids.

Kane visited Hazleton in February 2014, when her Mobile Street Crimes Unit made more than 40 arrests and seized over 9,000 packets of heroin in a three-day sweep. She trumpeted the fact that the unit had made more than 100 arrests and seized more than 35,000 packets of heroin in southern Luzerne County over the previous five months.

On Tuesday, Kane accompanied agents to Hazleton when they dismantled what she termed one of most substantial manufacturing and distribution facilities for ecstasy in the state.

The facility was discovered during an investigation that began last week when agents with her office’s Child Predator Section discovered an ecstasy lab in Hazle Township while serving a warrant related to child pornography.

DeAndrea said on Tuesday he was grateful Kane was “willing to come into our community and into our area as often as she does.” He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman speaks during a news conference Thursday in Norristown. Ferman announced charges her office filed against Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whom she accused of leaking secret grand jury information and lying about her actions under oath.
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_Kane_1A_toned.jpgMontgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman speaks during a news conference Thursday in Norristown. Ferman announced charges her office filed against Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whom she accused of leaking secret grand jury information and lying about her actions under oath. Matt Rourke | AP photo
An animated Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, right, speaks with Northeast Hazleton Crime Watch officials in downtown Hazleton on Tuesday before agents from Kane’s office began dismantling a major ecstasy lab about 50 yards away. It was Kane’s second visit to Luzerne County in the past 18 months.
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_Kane_5_for_jump.jpgAn animated Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, right, speaks with Northeast Hazleton Crime Watch officials in downtown Hazleton on Tuesday before agents from Kane’s office began dismantling a major ecstasy lab about 50 yards away. It was Kane’s second visit to Luzerne County in the past 18 months. Steve Mocarsky | Times Leader file
Kane
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_Kane_4_toned.jpgKane Steve Mocarsky | Times Leader file
Attorney general says she won’t resign

By Maryclaire Dale

Associated Press

The allegations

Criminal charges brought Thursday against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and an agent who also served as her driver stem from the alleged leak of secret documents related to a grand jury investigation. Kane has denied any wrongdoing.

A look at the allegations:

Leaking secret documents

Suspecting a former prosecutor was the source for a critical March 2014 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kane ordered her staff to dig into one of his old cases and allegedly leaked secret documents to a reporter in an attempt at payback.

Witnesses said Kane was incensed about an article on her dropping a political bribery investigation involving black Philadelphia lawmakers and wanted to smear the suspected source, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina.

“This is war,” she said in an email to a media strategist.

The Philadelphia Daily News published an article in June 2014 about Fina’s investigation into a former NAACP official. The article was based on secret material pertaining to the 2009 grand jury probe, prosecutors said.

The official was never charged.

The alleged leaks led to the appointment of a special prosecutor and a grand jury investigation that resulted in the charges announced Thursday.

___

Intimidating witnesses

The grand jury leak investigation relied heavily on the testimony of Kane’s employees.

Prosecutors said the names of witnesses and the dates and times of their scheduled secret testimony were well known within the attorney general’s office.

Witnesses reported being confronted with intimidating conduct as they arrived to testify. Prosecutors said Kane’s office also collected transcripts of witness testimony.

Kane openly questioned why the office was cooperating with the grand jury leak investigation, witnesses said, and threatened to fire employees who didn’t follow her orders, including a mandate to challenge a court order protecting the probe’s secrecy.

“If I get taken out of here in handcuffs, what do you think my last act will be,” Kane said, according to testimony from First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beamer.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Risa Vetri Ferman praised the current and former members of Kane’s staff who shared information. “It takes tremendous courage to stand up and, in essence, tell on your boss,” she said.

Snooping on investigation

Kane’s driver, also a supervisory special agent, snooped on the grand jury leak investigation using his access to the attorney general’s employee email archiving system, in violation of a court order to stay away.

Patrick Reese, the former police chief in Kane’s hometown of Dunmore, is accused of searching for emails referencing the judge, subpoenas, transcripts and perjury and checking for emails involving reporters and a special prosecutor.

The criminal affidavit says Reese refused to cooperate with investigators. Reese’s lawyer had no comment.

Lying to grand jury

Subpoenaed to testify last November, Kane told the grand jury that the release of information on Fina’s 2009 case had nothing to do with the Inquirer article.

Prosecutors say the testimony was part of a pattern of lies Kane told in an attempt to conceal her alleged crimes.

Kane said she never saw a confidential memo cited in the Daily News article, had a limited role in the leak and didn’t read the article for two months after it was published.

___

THE SUCCESSION PROCESS

Kane says she will not resign while criminal charges against her are pending but, if she changes her mind, the process of choosing a successor is spelled out clearly in state law.

Officials said Thursday that the Commonwealth Attorneys Act leaves the decision up to the governor and the state Senate.

If Kane does step down, her first deputy, Bruce Beemer, would automatically take over as interim attorney general until a successor is appointed to complete the four-year term Kane began in 2013.

The law says any successor must be nominated by the governor and approved by two-thirds of the 50 members of the Senate.

The allegations

Criminal charges brought Thursday against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and an agent who also served as her driver stem from the alleged leak of secret documents related to a grand jury investigation. Kane has denied any wrongdoing.

A look at the allegations:

Leaking secret documents

Suspecting a former prosecutor was the source for a critical March 2014 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kane ordered her staff to dig into one of his old cases and allegedly leaked secret documents to a reporter in an attempt at payback.

Witnesses said Kane was incensed about an article on her dropping a political bribery investigation involving black Philadelphia lawmakers and wanted to smear the suspected source, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina.

“This is war,” she said in an email to a media strategist.

The Philadelphia Daily News published an article in June 2014 about Fina’s investigation into a former NAACP official. The article was based on secret material pertaining to the 2009 grand jury probe, prosecutors said.

The official was never charged.

The alleged leaks led to the appointment of a special prosecutor and a grand jury investigation that resulted in the charges announced Thursday.

___

Intimidating witnesses

The grand jury leak investigation relied heavily on the testimony of Kane’s employees.

Prosecutors said the names of witnesses and the dates and times of their scheduled secret testimony were well known within the attorney general’s office.

Witnesses reported being confronted with intimidating conduct as they arrived to testify. Prosecutors said Kane’s office also collected transcripts of witness testimony.

Kane openly questioned why the office was cooperating with the grand jury leak investigation, witnesses said, and threatened to fire employees who didn’t follow her orders, including a mandate to challenge a court order protecting the probe’s secrecy.

“If I get taken out of here in handcuffs, what do you think my last act will be,” Kane said, according to testimony from First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beamer.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Risa Vetri Ferman praised the current and former members of Kane’s staff who shared information. “It takes tremendous courage to stand up and, in essence, tell on your boss,” she said.

Snooping on investigation

Kane’s driver, also a supervisory special agent, snooped on the grand jury leak investigation using his access to the attorney general’s employee email archiving system, in violation of a court order to stay away.

Patrick Reese, the former police chief in Kane’s hometown of Dunmore, is accused of searching for emails referencing the judge, subpoenas, transcripts and perjury and checking for emails involving reporters and a special prosecutor.

The criminal affidavit says Reese refused to cooperate with investigators. Reese’s lawyer had no comment.

Lying to grand jury

Subpoenaed to testify last November, Kane told the grand jury that the release of information on Fina’s 2009 case had nothing to do with the Inquirer article.

Prosecutors say the testimony was part of a pattern of lies Kane told in an attempt to conceal her alleged crimes.

Kane said she never saw a confidential memo cited in the Daily News article, had a limited role in the leak and didn’t read the article for two months after it was published.

___

THE SUCCESSION PROCESS

Kane says she will not resign while criminal charges against her are pending but, if she changes her mind, the process of choosing a successor is spelled out clearly in state law.

Officials said Thursday that the Commonwealth Attorneys Act leaves the decision up to the governor and the state Senate.

If Kane does step down, her first deputy, Bruce Beemer, would automatically take over as interim attorney general until a successor is appointed to complete the four-year term Kane began in 2013.

The law says any successor must be nominated by the governor and approved by two-thirds of the 50 members of the Senate.


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