Pennsylvania’s Kane Asked by Governor to Resign Amid ChargesSophia Pearson
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was asked by Governor Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat, to resign amid charges she leaked secret grand jury information as political payback -- and then lied about it under oath.
“I am not sure how the top law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania can continue to perform her duties while she is defending herself against these serious charges,” Wolf said Thursday. “I am calling on her to step aside.”
Kane was the first Democrat elected to the office and the first woman. The 49-year-old is accused of perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy in a case growing out of leaks to a Philadelphia newspaper. She said she’ll fight the charges and stay in office while she does.
“I remain committed to leading the office of attorney general and doing the job the citizens of this Commonwealth elected me to do,” Kane said in a statement. “A resignation would be an admission of guilt and I’m not guilty.”
She is the second top state law-enforcement official charged this week, following Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was accused of securities fraud and failing to register as a securities adviser. He too said he’ll fight.
Kane is charged with orchestrating a scheme to seek revenge on Frank Fina, a veteran prosecutor and chief deputy attorney general who quit shortly after she took office in 2013.
She allegedly suspected he was the source of a March 2014 newspaper article criticizing as partisan her decision to drop a public-corruption probe of fellow Democrats.
In response to the story, Kane used her position to disclose grand jury information from a 2009 investigation of J. Whyatt Mondesire, a former head of the NAACP in Philadelphia, over alleged misuse of funds.
The secret information was contained in a memo copied to state prosecutors including Fina. It stated that the probe had uncovered questionable spending by the former NAACP official. The investigation was later dropped.
The memo’s release was intended to show that Fina was “soft” on Mondesire, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Thursday.
“This was her war, based upon the evidence, without regard to the rules, without regard to the law,” Ferman said at a press conference. “She lied repeatedly about her own conduct, about the law and about other matters.”
Law enforcement officials are generally barred by law from disclosing anything about grand jury proceedings.
Kane testified last year before another grand jury -- this one convened to investigate her. She said she was free to release information about Mondesire because the material was from before she served as attorney general.
Grand jurors didn’t agree and in December recommended she be prosecuted. Kane sought unsuccessfully to void the case with an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Having lost in court, she turned to the press. She appeared before the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer with a private attorney to address the March 2014 article.
Kane said she dropped the public-corruption case because it was racist, not because the targets were members of her party.
The lawmakers, who are black, were accused of taking bribes as part of a sting operation. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who is also black, took up the case in Kane’s place, securing guilty pleas from four of six people charged.
Fina joined Williams’ office after stepping down as Kane’s chief deputy.
Kane’s attorney, Gerald Shargel, said there was no conspiracy.
“At no time did she believe that she was asking or directing anyone to do anything improper or unlawful,” he said in a statement Thursday.
A former Lackawanna County prosecutor, Kane made the handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse case at Pennsylvania State University her main campaign issue in 2012. She hammered former Republican Governor Tom Corbett’s decision to delay prosecution when he was attorney general.
Kane’s review of the Sandusky investigation last year revealed at least seven state officials had exchanged hundreds of sexually explicit e-mails on state accounts.
She released the e-mails publicly in response to open-records requests from news organizations, leading to the resignation of officials including state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey.
Patrick Reese, a member of Kane’s security detail, was also charged Thursday with accessing grand jury files in violation of a judge’s order.
Kane is the second Pennsylvania attorney general in two decades to be prosecuted. Ernest Preate Jr., a Republican, resigned in 1995 after pleading guilty to mail fraud. He was sentenced to 14 months in prison.
The case is In Re the 35th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Petition of Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, 197 MM 2014, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg).