AG Kane declared ‘war’ in document leak, prosecutors say

AG Kane declared ‘war’ in document leak, prosecutors say
Charles Mostoller

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged on Thursday with leaking grand jury secrets in an attempt to embarrass a rival prosecutor, sparking calls from the state’s top Democrat to step down.

Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected to the office, was charged with perjury, conspiracy and official oppression in the case.

Prosecutors in Montgomery County said she leaked the information because she believed a prosecutor who had left her office, Frank Fina, had embarrassed her in the press.

Kane, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, declared a war “conducted without rules, conducted without law and conducted without regard to collateral damage.”

The charges stem from a March 2014 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying that Kane had shut down a sting that recorded Philadelphia Democrats accepting bribes.

Kane said the investigation was poorly managed, and that the sting had been motivated by racial bias.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office — where Fina now works — later prosecuted six people caught up in the investigation.

Kane believed that Fina was a source for the story, according to prosecutors.

To retaliate, she allegedly handed secret grand jury documents to a unnamed political operative. Those documents, which pertained to a 2009 investigation into the finances of former NAACP head J. Whyatt Mondesire, were then handed off to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Mondesire was never charged in that probe.

“I will not allow them to discredit me or our office,” Kane wrote in one email obtained by investigators. “This is war.”

When the operative dropped the documents off, the names of many employees in the attorney general’s office were blacked out — except for Fina’s court docs say.

The leak was designed to “make it look like a prosecutor had gone soft on a corruption investigation,” Ferman said.

Kane released a statement immediately after the charges were announced, saying that she would fight them.

“I look forward to the opportunity to present my case in a public courtroom and move beyond the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that has defined the process to this point,” Kane said.

The charges mark the latest development in the saga of Kane’s downfall. She rode to office on a promise to find out why it took so long for investigators to bring charges against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. For her first year in office, she was considered a rising star in the state’s Democratic Party.

Her claims that state investigators dragged their feet in investigating the now-convicted child molestor rankled many in the Attorney General’s Office, including Fina, who was a lead prosecutor on the case.

As her behind-the-scenes fight with Fina progressed, profiles of her began to emerge as a politician who was paranoid and vengeful.

Court documents say Kane allowed two top deputies to read the e-mails of employees in the attorney general’s office in an attempt to ferret out people who were leaking to the press or cooperating with the investigation into her leaks to the press.

Also charged in the case is Supervisory Special Agent Patrick Reese from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, though he serves as Kane’s bodyguard and driver. He is accused of accessing a secret law enforcement database and accessing the emails of employees in Kane’s office though a judge hadissued an order barring access to the information.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat, called for Kane to step down.

“I am not sure how the top law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania can continue to perform her duties while she is defending these serious charges,” Wolf said in a statement.

She said she would not step down.

“A resignation would be an admission that I am guilty, and I am not guilty,” Kane said.

Ferman brushed aside a question of whether Kane should step down amid the charges, but said the charges marked “a sad day for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

Kane was informed that she would be charged yesterday. She was expected to make her first court appearance within two days.