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Kane: I’m victim of plan to hide porn, racially charged emails

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane looks down as she reads a statement during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, shown here in a file photo from Aug. 12, 2015.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

HARRISBURG — Pornographic, racial and religiously offensive emails on office computers are the root of a campaign to discredit her, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Wednesday, blaming a judge and unnamed conspirators for barring their release.

Kane, charged with crimes in an alleged political payback scheme, said she will finish the job voters elected her to do.

“I neither conspired with anyone, nor did I ask or direct anyone to do anything improper or unlawful,” she said.

Her defense to charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and official oppression “will not be that I am the victim of some old boys’ network,” Kane said, “it will be that I broke no laws of the Commonwealth. Period.”

But, said Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County: “There’s significant interest in both parties, in both chambers, to proceed with impeachment.”

A politician would choose her successor if she is removed from office, said Kane, the first woman and Democrat elected to the office. She said that “stealth political weapon” is part of the grand plan.

Kane’s scenario has nothing to do with the charges against her, some observers said.

“It’s part of her paranoia — ‘they are all out to get her,’” said former Acting Attorney General Walter W. Cohen, a Democrat who was sympathetic to Kane early on.

“Quite frankly, even if all these people (in the office) circulated such emails, I fail to see how this is relevant to the allegations that she lied in the grand jury, asked her employee to improperly access protected material and leaked … grand jury material to the press,” said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a Democrat.

Kane, 49, of Scranton spoke for the first time since the Montgomery County district attorney charged her last week. She said she would not answer questions until Judge William Carpenter, who supervised the Norristown grand jury that investigated her, allows her to make public the “filthy email chain.”

Kane said Carpenter’s “tortured interpretation of our state’s grand jury secrecy law” prevents the complete dissemination of emails her investigators found while reviewing how her predecessor, former Gov. Tom Corbett, handled the child sex abuse case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

“Only a grand jury protective order stands in the way of my releasing their names and their emails to the public,” Kane said. “And should I be removed from office … the one person who would have standing to challenge that order would no longer have standing to do so. That was their plan all along.”

She asked Carpenter to give her immunity from potential charges of witness tampering that could come from disclosing transcripts, emails and other documents.

“I do so to begin to tell the whole story, a story that is critical to my defense against the charges I face,” Kane said.

She asked the lawyer disciplinary board to halt any activity to take her law license until Carpenter takes those actions. If the Supreme Court suspends her license, she could not remain in office but would have 10 days to fight it.

Carpenter’s office said he would issue a statement in response later.

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said she “does not respond to comments made by criminal defendants,” and that prosecutors will present evidence of Kane’s offenses in court.

Kane was smart to stick to a script that she read, rather than engage with reporters, legal experts said.

It’s important for an elected official to make a case in “the court of public opinion,” but journalists don’t have to follow rules of evidence, said Bruce Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College near Latrobe.

Anything Kane volunteers in a news conference would be admissible in court, said defense lawyer William Costopoulous of Lemoyne in Cumberland County. Kane is the highest-ranking woman in Pennsylvania state government. She has claimed before that she is a political target for taking on what she calls a corrupt, old-boys’ law enforcement network and exposing those who exchaged sexist and racist emails.

The email scandal, she said, resulted in six firings, two resignations and 23 reprimands, including a former state Supreme Court justice who resigned.

Several Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have urged Kane to step down. Her critics say the charges have damaged the office’s credibility and fighting them will distract her from her state responsibilities.

Kane defended her record, saying the state is “safer now than it ever has been” since she took office in 2013. She cited 135 child predator arrests, 645 drug arrests and a $2.4 million settlement with an electric supplier that overcharged customers in the nine months since a grand jury recommended charging her.

Kane addressed her sons, Christopher and Zack, during her speech, telling reporters they heard about the charges against her on the news.

“Sometimes you pick the fights, and sometimes the fight picks you,” she said, citing playground conduct. “There are times when the fight is worth waging no matter the odds.”

Kane did not enter a plea when arraigned in Norristown on Saturday. A magistrate released her on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Investigators say Kane orchestrated a scheme to leak material from a secret 2009 investigation to a newspaper to embarrass a fellow prosecutor with whom she feuded, then lied under oath and tried to cover up her actions.

Her New York City attorney, Gerald Shargel, has said Kane will plead not guilty and seek a jury trial. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 24.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or [email protected]

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