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Accused office spy for Pennsylvania AG Kane won’t be suspended

dnKaneAttorneyGeneralIndictment082515
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaves her preliminary hearing Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown.
PatrickReese
The (Scranton) Times-Tribune
Patrick Reese

HARRISBURG — A confidant of Attorney General Kathleen Kane will keep his job while a criminal charge alleging he snooped on a grand jury investigation of his boss plays out.

Patrick Reese, the former police chief in Dunmore in Lackawanna County who became Kane’s driver and bodyguard, won’t be suspended even though an office policy dictates it, in certain circumstances, for employees charged with crimes, Kane’s spokesman Chuck Ardo said.

Reese will draw his $99,658 salary while awaiting trial on charges of tampering with computers to spy on a grand jury that investigated Kane.

“It has been determined his alleged violation did not rise to the level of suspension and that the office policy never envisioned this kind of charge,” Ardo said.

He said Chief of Staff Jonathan Duecker made the determination based on a lengthy legal review.

Ardo said it isn’t proven that Reese snooped in the email system or that Kane directed him to do so, as prosecutors claim.

Protecting Reese’s job is just one example of the conflict Kane must grapple with as a criminal defendant and as the state’s chief prosecutor looking at broader office policy, experts said.

The conflict arose Tuesday — a day after a judge held her for trial on criminal charges — when Kane said she would reconsider her contradictory position on newspapers’ requests for pornographic emails found last year in the office computer system.

She has said the emails are important to her defense because her critics want to suppress them and discredit her. Yet Kane has fought in court to keep the emails secret.

Kane, 49, of Scranton is charged with several crimes, including perjury. She is accused of lying under oath about the 2014 leak of a grand jury case from 2009 to get back at a former state prosecutor with whom she feuded.

“There’s a clear question and a legitimate concern here,” said Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe. “She has not recused herself on policies, including Right to Know Law requests (potentially affecting her defense).”

A former federal prosecutor, Antkowiak said some U.S. attorneys would step aside from decisions on cases to which they might have a personal link.

“This concerns the very operation of the office,” Antkowiak said. “It’s going to get more difficult as it goes along.”

Kane said she would reassess her position on open records requests for the emails and “all relevant materials.” Without specifying, she referred to “associated documents” in the state Supreme Court’s files.

The court Wednesday could release more documents related to Kane and the pornographic materials. It has unsealed two orders showing Kane could release the emails without violating grand jury secrecy.

Reese, 47, has been Kane’s security agent since she took office in 2013. The two have known each other for at least 20 years. When she hired him, Kane said she “trusted him with her life,” according to the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Reese no longer drives Kane, nor can he access grand jury material, Ardo said.

Reese is due in court Sept. 9 before Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter on a contempt charge. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in prison.

Carpenter supervised the grand jury investigation of Kane. Prosecutors said Reese monitored witnesses’ emails.

Kane signed the office suspension policy when updating a code of conduct in October 2013. The policy generally applies to felonies but does not preclude action on misdemeanors, Ardo said. It does not apply to Kane because she is an elected official, he said.

Ardo has said the office was trying to come up with a “uniform policy” regarding criminal charges against employees. An attorney found in contempt of court wouldn’t automatically be suspended, he said.

Special Agent David Peifer, who heads special investigations, was implicated but not charged in the criminal complaints charging Kane and Reese. He was the lead-off prosecution witness at Kane’s preliminary hearing, though prosecutors won’t say whether he is a cooperative witness granted immunity.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter.

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