Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane guilty in grand jury leak
NORRISTOWN — Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the state's top law enforcement officer and once an ascending star in politics, was convicted by a jury Monday of perjury and related charges for covering up a grand jury leak she orchestrated.
Gov. Tom Wolf called on Kane, 50, of Scranton to resign immediately.
“As I have made clear, I do not believe Kathleen Kane should be Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I believed this when she was charged, and today, after conviction, there should be no question that she should resign immediately,” he wrote in a statement.
Just two years ago, Kane was being mentioned in Democratic circles as a potential candidate for U.S. Senate or governor.
She was convicted of all nine charges including two counts of perjury, two counts of false swearing, two counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of conspiracy and one count of criminal conspiracy.
The two charges of perjury are felonies. The other counts are misdemeanors.
The jury began deliberations about 3:50 p.m. The verdict was announced after 8:30 p.m.
Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, Kane cannot hold her seat with a felony conviction, but she is not required to resign until her conviction is final at sentencing. She will be sentenced within 90 days, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy said.
If Kane does not resign immediately, Senate Republican leaders indicated that they'll hold an imminent session to recall and vote on a resolution to remove her. Such a vote failed in February but might fare differently in light of her convictions.
A statement from President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, stated that “if she elects not to (resign), the Senate will work toward bringing this saga to a close, including an imminent return to session to reconsider her removal under Article VI Section 7 of the state Constitution.”
Kane became the second attorney general since 1995 to be convicted of a crime. Former Republican Attorney General Ernie Preate of Scranton pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with illegal campaign contributions from video poker operators.
First Deputy Attorney General Bruce L. Castor Jr. has scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Tuesday in Harrisburg to discuss the operation of the Attorney General's Office.
Demchick-Alloy indicated she was angry at some of the testimony she heard and gave Kane a tongue-lashing.
“There is to be no kind of retaliation against anyone in this case by your hand directly or otherwise,” the judge said. “If it comes to the court's attention you retaliate against anyone, you will be incarcerated immediately. Is that clear, Ms. Kane?”
“Yes, it is, your honor,” said Kane, who was consoled after the verdict by her twin, Ellen Granahan, a deputy attorney general.
Kane must surrender her passport by noon Tuesday. Demchick-Alloy said she issued the requirement because Kane took a weeklong trip to Haiti in 2014 while her office was in tumult.
Asked whether Kane intended to resign, her attorney Gerald Shargel said, “it's an important issue that will be sorted out over the next few days.
“We will keep fighting,” he said. “We will keep litigating.”
Prosecutors conducted a news conference after Kane's defense team.
“It seemed we had someone who thought she was above the law,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said. “Twelve people (jurors) came in and showed otherwise.”
Michelle Henry, a Bucks County prosecutor and Greensburg native on loan to Steele for the trail, was asked whether as a woman she was offended by Kane's behavior.
“I'm offended by her crimes as a prosecutor,” Henry said. “The fact she would commit criminal acts as a top prosecutor is a disgrace.”
A common thread of the charges against Kane is “abuse of power,” Steele said in his closing arguments.
The 2014 leak to a Philadelphia newspaper about a 2009 case hurt the reputation of the target, J. Whyatt Mondesire, who was never charged. He died last year but was never the same again after the story hit, Steele said Mondesire's fiancee recalled.
“(Kane) directed it,” Steele told the jury.
Mondesire was one of the casualties from Kane's self-described “war” against those she blamed for a negative 2014 new story about her, Steele added.
The jury heard 3 1⁄2 days of testimony last week from prosecution witnesses. The defense rested without presenting evidence. Kane chose not to testify.
Demchick-Alloy told jurors that Kane “has an absolute right to be silent. You must not draw any inference adverse to the defendant.”
“We have proven our case,” Steele said before the verdict was announced, “not only beyond a reasonable doubt but beyond all doubt.”
A defense attorney for Kane told the jury Monday that it “would not buy a used car” from two key commonwealth witnesses against her. Attorney Seth Farber of the law firm Winston & Strawn in Manhattan made the remarks in closing arguments. He was attacking the credibility of Kane's former first deputy Adrian King and her political consultant Joshua Morrow, who received immunity from prosecution to testify.
Henry contended Kane's criminal conduct was motivated by “revenge” against a former state prosecutor whom she blamed for “bad press” in a hard-hitting 2014 Philadelphia newspaper article. The report by The Philadelphia Inquirer said Kane failed to pursue a corruption case.
Brad Bumsted is the Tribune-Review's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405.