Grand jury presentment: AG Kane lied, attempted to cover up leak
NORRISTOWN — Attorney General Kathleen Kane lied to a grand jury investigating her and tried to cover up her directive to release secret material to a Philadelphia newspaper last year, according to the grand jury’s presentment made public Monday.
“We find that the testimony of Attorney General Kane was not an honest account of the events, and she mischaracterized events to cover up activities undertaken at her direction to unlawfully release documents subject to grand jury secrecy,” the panel concluded.
Kane, who testified to the Norristown grand jury in November, has said she did not break any laws.
Her spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said Kane “remains committed to serving out her term and looks forward to clearing her name.” He said she testified truthfully.
But the grand jury said it compared her testimony with that of other witnesses and “did not find her testimony truthful, while intending to divert attention from her actual role as the principal of the leak.”
“I will stand by her and vigorously defend her every step of the way,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn of Millvale. He said the presentment “is not evidence” and that Kane “deserves the chance to tell her side of the story.”
Senate Republican spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said the caucus would not comment “in order to preserve our role as adjudicators, should the House ever choose to move forward with impeachment proceedings.”
House Republicans were reviewing the matter and had no comment, spokesman Stephen Miskin said.
The grand jury said Kane used her political consultant, Joshua Morrow, to deliver documents about a 2009 grand jury investigation of former Philadelphia NAACP head J. Whyatt Mondesire to Philadelphia Daily News reporter Chris Brennan.
Kane gave a plain, sealed envelope to her former first assistant, Adrian King Jr., to deliver to Morrow. King testified that he assumed it contained campaign material.
King had warned Kane about releasing information on the Mondesire investigation because of grand jury secrecy, the report states. In an email exchange, she told him: “I am well aware of the limitations of disclosing criminal files. … I have been in this business for quite some time.”
The Daily News story about Mondesire, whom prosecutors did not charge with a crime, included detailed information about the investigation, the grand jury said.
King testified that Kane became fixated on the Mondesire case because of news accounts that reported she did not prosecute Philadelphia lawmakers caught taking cash in an undercover sting.
King declined to comment. Morrow could not be reached.
The documents given to Brennan contained redactions — except for the names of former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina and former Senior Deputy Attorney General Marc Costanzo, “prosecutors with whom Attorney General Kane was locked in a public battle over how Kane had handled past criminal cases,” including the sting, the grand jury said.
Fina and Costanzo declined to comment. They work for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who has charged six officials with bribery in connection with the sting.
Mondesire, a former newspaper editor, testified, “You don’t get documents off the street. They had to come from someone inside.” He said he was “crushed and dumbfounded” by the Daily News story, the grand jury said.
Agents testified that they expressed concern about the leak, but that Kane did not. She “took no action in response to the leak,” and did not disclose to senior staff that she was responsible, the grand jury said.
Then-Chief Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer, now Kane’s second-in-command, testified that she directed senior staff not to investigate the leak: “Her response to me was, ‘Don’t worry about it; it’s not a big deal. We have more important things to do.’ ”
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman will decide whether to prosecute Kane on charges the grand jury recommended, including perjury.
Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter on Monday ordered Ferman to decide whether Kane violated a court order protecting James Barker, a top aide she fired, and whether she should be found in criminal contempt. Barker, who was fired two weeks ago, testified extensively to the grand jury.
Ferman declined to comment.
“We’re pleased by this order,” said Kane’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel of New York City.
He had argued that Carpenter was biased against Kane and colluded with special prosecutor Thomas Carluccio.
Carluccio argued the confidential grand jury process requires conversations between a judge and a prosecutor.
Carpenter and two other judges heard arguments from the attorneys on how a contempt hearing for Kane might proceed, before Carpenter gave the case to Ferman.
Shargel said the notion that Barker was covered by a protective order means the court “becomes the micromanager of the Attorney General’s Office.”
He said Kane needs to be able to hire and fire personnel as she sees fit, and that Barker’s firing was not retaliatory.
But Carluccio argued that no one would feel safe in testifying against a boss if he or she could be fired shortly thereafter.
Barker headed criminal appeals and was responsible for grand juries. He confirmed Beemer’s statements that Kane ordered any inquiry into the leak be dropped, the grand jury said.
Barker testified that officials of the office have an “implied ongoing obligation to honor grand jury information as secret” and that obligation does not expire with the grand jury’s end.
That contradicts Kane’s statements that she was a “stay-at-home mom” in 2009 when the Mondesire investigation happened and therefore was not required to uphold secrecy for that grand jury when she became attorney general in 2013.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].