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Attorney general Kane reverses claim about child porn in emails | TribLIVE.com
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Attorney general Kane reverses claim about child porn in emails

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, accompanied by attorney Gerald Shargel, a reads a statement to reporters on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, upon arriving to testify before a state grand jury near Norristown.
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Brad Bumstead | Trib Total Media
Attorney General Kathleen Kane arrives Monday, November 17, 2014, at her Montgomery County office, where she is expected to testify before a grand jury investigating a leak from Kane's office.

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Wednesday backed away from claims in a television interview that controversial emails exchanged by prosecutors, judges and cops contained child pornography.

Spokeswoman Renee Martin said Kane believes the emails depicting children were not pornographic and no crimes were committed in transmitting them.

During a nationally televised CNN interview a night earlier, Kane said the emails initially took her breath away.

“And they are deplorable: hard-core, graphic, sometimes violent emails that had a string of videos and pictures depicting sometimes children, old women, some of them involved violent sexual acts against women,” Kane told CNN reporter Sara Ganim, who won a Pulitzer Prize as a newspaper reporter for her coverage of the Penn State sex abuse scandal.

The emails were recovered by Kane’s office as part of her investigation of why it took Gov. Tom Corbett, the former Republican attorney general, almost three years to arrest serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky, the retired Penn State assistant football coach. Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term for sexually abusing boys on campus.

Kane’s probe did not establish foot dragging by Corbett, as she had asserted in her 2012 campaign to become the first Democrat and first woman elected to the job.

In response to a question about whether there was child pornography in the emails that were publicly released, her new outside media consultant Lanny Davis said Wednesday: “I only looked at two photographs and I stopped because of how awful the extreme pornography was among the emails publicly released. My personal reaction was: In the context of the disgusting and extreme pornographic material that I saw in some of these emails, I personally regarded them as inappropriate and borderline pornographic.”

Martin, the spokeswoman in Kane’s office, said Kane thinks emails depicting children that were exchanged by state officials were not pornographic. The images of children involved don’t rise to the level of child pornography, she said.

“They weren’t children playing in a sandbox,” she said, “The fact they were shared took on another connotation.”

Kane on Monday made a high-stakes appearance — under a subpoena — before a statewide grand jury near Norristown investigating whether she leaked grand jury material this year from 2009 to embarrass rival prosecutor Frank Fina, with whom she has feuded. According to her lawyers, Kane provided a memo to the Philadelphia Daily News but believed it was not covered by grand jury secrecy rules.

Some of the so-called pornography involving children was available on Google Images. A series called “Men in Training” showed a boy and girl peeking into each other’s underpants, toddlers kissing, a baby with a beer on his high chair and a profile photo of a small boy urinating.

An internal review by Geoffrey Moulton, a former federal prosecutor Kane hired, determined none of the images rose to the level of child pornography.

“It’s definitely not child porn,” said former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor.

Kane is “often not on the same page with her staff or her staff isn’t on the same page with her,” said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia media consultant with Democratic ties. “At best it presents an image of being disorganized. It calls into question what she does as attorney general.”

The emails from the Sandusky case were shared among attorney general staffers before Kane was elected in 2012. Kane released emails in response to Right-To-Know Law requests from newspapers — including the Trib — which led to resignations and retirements of some top state officials when the emails became public. Former Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery retired after being suspended by the high court for transmitting pornography.

Dozens of other employees continued or started sending porn during Kane’s term, her office said, and last week she fired, suspended and disciplined employees. Many transmitting the emails were top-level state prosecutors.

“It begs the question: Why are adults passing around these types of pictures? There’s no good reason,” Lancaster defense attorney Chris Patterson said.

Brandon McGinley of Mt. Lebanon, field director of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, said the emails overall are “a window into the culture of Harrisburg.

“It demonstrates a culture where women aren’t valued and they’re seen as sexual objects,” McGinley said.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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