Montgomery detectives search Pa. attorney general’s office
HARRISBURG — More than a month after charging Attorney General Kathleen Kane with perjury and other crimes, the Montgomery County district attorney on Thursday sent detectives armed with a search warrant to the Attorney General’s Office, the third such search for unspecified evidence.
“They executed a sealed search warrant,” said Kevin Steele, the district attorney’s first assistant.
He and the detectives declined to say more.
Kane was not in the Harrisburg office, said her spokesman Chuck Ardo. She often works in the Scranton office, near her home.
Ardo said the four detectives spent two hours and 15 minutes inside the office at Strawberry Square, conducting a search on the 16th floor where Kane’s office is located. They did not enter the executive offices that include her desk, however.
“We have no way of knowing what the investigation involves, or whether it involves the attorney general herself or not,” Ardo said.
Obtaining a search warrant from a judge requires specifying “the place to be searched and things to be seized,” said Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor.
Antkowiak, a law professor at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, said such a search requires “a fresh set of probable cause” and cannot rely on earlier evidence used to obtain search warrants or that used to hold Kane for trial at a preliminary hearing.
The range of possibilities for the search is practically unlimited, Antkowiak said. It could be new information in the case against her, he said, or it could be “evidence of some ongoing activity.” It could involve other individuals in the office.
District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman last month charged Kane with perjury, a felony, and seven misdemeanors including obstruction of justice and official oppression, stemming from a leak last year of confidential information from a 2009 grand jury investigation.
Kane, who became the first woman and Democrat elected attorney general when she took office in 2013, denies any wrongdoing.
Ferman charged Kane’s driver and bodyguard, Patrick Reese, with indirect criminal contempt. He’s accused of using the office computer system to spy on employees and keep Kane informed about who talked to investigators. He faces a hearing Dec. 7 before Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter.
Kane’s attorney has said she will plead not guilty at her formal arraignment Oct. 14.
Ferman’s investigators twice before searched the offices since she began investigating Kane on April 1. She did so after Carpenter referred to her a grand jury report recommending that Kane be prosecuted.
When she filed charges Aug. 6, Ferman said the investigation would continue.
Kane claims a corrupt “good old boys’ network” concocted the investigation because she exposed a pornographic email chain they shared.
The state’s disciplinary board for lawyers filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, seeking an emergency suspension of Kane’s law license for damaging the administration of justice. She could remain as attorney general but would be unable to sign legal documents, limiting her ability to function.
Ardo said most workers in the Harrisburg office likely “didn’t know (the detectives) were there,” and that the search did not distract from daily business.
But for a law enforcement agency to serve a search warrant on another law enforcement agency, Ardo said, “it’s certainly not the norm.”
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or [email protected]. The Associated Press contributed to this report.