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Many need justice in Kane mess

HARRISBURG

There's a question coursing beneath the troubled tenure of Attorney General Kathleen Kane: Who are the victims?

Perjury is one of the allegations under investigation. Kane is accused of lying to a grand jury investigating an alleged leak of confidential information to the Philadelphia Daily News.

Kane says she never lied and the information she authorized releasing was not secret grand jury material. Kane committed no crimes, her attorneys say.

On their face, perjury and a grand jury leak, obstruction of justice, would appear to be victimless crimes. Judges and lawyers say that if a lawyer commits perjury, it demeans the judicial system. Same with a leak that undermines the “sanctity” of the grand jury process.

There's some truth to that but also some legal mumbo-jumbo.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman is investigating the allegations against Kane stemming from a statewide grand jury presentment that recommended Kane be charged with several crimes.

So far, Ferman is running a tight ship (no leaks) and a decision is expected as early as June or as late as August. Pick a date in between. That's just my speculation, not a leak. Based on activity people have witnessed, Ferman's own grand jury is recalling many of the same employees of the Attorney General's Office to testify. Ferman, a candidate for judge in November, is playing it by the book and not relying on the earlier recommendations.

If the top state law enforcement officer is charged with crimes, it will drive the office into chaos. It is now cloaked in fear and paranoia, some sources say. However, its work in drug enforcement in particular is lauded. There seems little doubt Ferman will move on something.

Kane will have a life-altering decision to make: fight charges to the bitter end and hope for a sympathetic juror or two to hand her a hung-jury decision or maybe, just maybe, an acquittal, in a drama playing out over two years; or cut a deal, plead no contest, keep her law license, resign and walk away. Kane has given every signal she'll fight. Maybe that is a negotiating tactic or maybe she means it.

In any case, there are people who need justice:

• J. Whyatt Mondesire, the former NAACP leader smeared by the leak but who was never charged with a crime

• James Barker, a top lawyer handling appeals in Kane's office, who was fired after he testified against her in a grand jury and despite being under a judge's protective order

• Many good employees bounced from their positions by Kane for little or no reason

• The Office of Attorney General, whose reputation has been damaged

• Kathleen Kane.

Yes, you read that last line correctly. If she committed no crimes, she needs to be cleared quickly. She is still responsible for many blunders. But she's no doubt gone through a private hell that some contend is of her own making. In any case, she needs justice, too.

Brad Bumsted is the Trib's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 or [email protected]).


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