Kane blames press secretary for comment about Sandusky leak
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen Kane blamed her press secretary for comments about a potential leak of grand jury material when she testified in private before a judge last week.
A transcript of the closed court session includes a brief discussion between Kane and Judge John Cleland about her suspended law license, a situation with “certainly problematic” implications, the judge said.
Kane blamed spokesman Chuck Ardo for comments that she suspected prosecutors from a prior administration leaked information about the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case.
Asked whether the conversation angers or disappoints him, Ardo said, “I think it exposes the challenge of speaking for the Attorney General’s Office at this point in time.”
Ardo is under contract with Kane. He is her seventh spokesman.
Cleland, a senior judge from McKean County who is handling Sandusky’s appeal, ordered Kane to explain to him and defense attorney Al Lindsay her comments implying that prosecutors or a former grand jury judge leaked information about the former Penn State assistant football coach before his conviction on child molestation charges in 2012.
Cleland asked Kane about a Sept. 30 article by The Associated Press that Lindsay referenced in a court filing. The story quoted Ardo as saying Kane “has strong suspicions that the leaks came from people associated with this office.”
“Well, judge, those words were the words of Chuck Ardo. Those weren’t my words,” Kane testified.
Ardo in late September first told reporters there were no concerns about leaks by prosecutors. He said he based that on a statement provided to him by one of Kane’s top aides. But he said several of her aides told him later to correct his statement, so he did.
“I spoke to several people. I don’t know which one told me to change it,” Ardo said.
He said he spoke with Kane. “She had heard I’d made the comment. I believe she told me she’d get back to me.” But he said Kane didn’t call back.
“Those were impressions given to him without authorization by me,” said Kane, who faces 12 criminal charges in Montgomery County stemming from a leak of grand jury material from a 2009 case to a Philadelphia newspaper.
“I don’t have any emails or communications to suggest there was anything going on between Judge (Barry) Feudale and (Office of the Attorney General) attorneys,” Kane said. “I can’t speak to why (Ardo) said that.”
Kane had intimated that Feudale and former state prosecutor Frank Fina were too close and had shared information by email. She successfully petitioned the state Supreme Court to remove Feudale as a grand jury judge in 2013, not long after she took office. Feudale last week accused Kane of being behind a theft of documents from his chambers and having unauthorized access to his emails.
Cleland presided over Sandusky’s trial. Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term for molesting 10 boys.
Concern about the Sandusky case leak stemmed from a March 2011 story in the Harrisburg Patriot-News that said Sandusky was under investigation for child molestation by a statewide grand jury.
“It could have been the defense attorneys,” Kane said. “It could have been Penn State. It could have been Sandusky himself.”
In the exchange about her law license, which the Supreme Court suspended effective Oct. 22, Cleland told Kane: “I’m aware of your statements yesterday and otherwise that your law license is in a state of suspension.”
“Uh-huh,” she answered.
“The intricacies and the implications of that in-limbo status elude me,” Cleland said.
“Me, as well, judge,” Kane said.
“And are certainly problematic,” the judge said. “But I assume you continue to be an officer of the court, at least by virtue of you being the attorney general of Pennsylvania.”
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].