Pennsylvania AG Kane to face criminal charges, sources say
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman plans a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday where she is expected to announce criminal charges against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
“At this point I can’t confirm anything,” said New York City lawyer Gerald Shargel, who has represented Kane since she testified before the grand jury in November. “We continue to maintain she is innocent of any wrongdoing, and she has no plans to resign her office.”
Kane likely would voluntarily appear in Norristown, the sources said, where Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman has been conducting an investigation since April.
Ferman declined comment.
“I have no way of knowing what the Montgomery County district attorney plans to do or when she plans to do it,” Kane’s spokesman Chuck Ardo said. He said Kane would “make a statement if and when that happens.”
Criminal charges would place Kane in the position of being the state’s chief law enforcement officer and a defendant.
Ferman investigated the grand jury’s conclusion that Kane leaked secret investigative information to a Philadelphia newspaper to embarrass a political foe.
The grand jury said Kane lied in testimony before the panel and tried to cover up her actions. It recommended charging her with perjury, criminal contempt, obstruction of justice and official oppression.
Ferman began investigating in April when Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter, who supervised the grand jury, referred the case to her.
Ferman is a Republican running for judge in November.
Kane, 49, of Scranton is the first woman and Democrat to hold the elected office of attorney general. She has said she intends to run for re-election next year.
She would be the second attorney general in Pennsylvania to draw criminal charges. Republican Ernie Preate of Scranton, charged with mail fraud in 1995, agreed to resign in a deal with prosecutors. His guilty plea stemmed from an investigation of video poker operators. He served 11 months in prison.
Kane is accused of leaking grand jury material from a 2009 case before she was attorney general. She admitted that she authorized releasing information about that case to the Philadelphia Daily News but said the information wasn’t protected by grand jury secrecy.
The investigation of J. Whyatt Mondesire, former head of the Philadelphia NAACP, never led to charges. Mondesire, who publishes the Philadelphia Sun, a weekly black newspaper, told the grand jury he was “crushed and dumbfounded” by the leak. He “felt like a real jerk,” he testified, saying public opinion of him changed.
“It is quite stunning to see the attorney general was completely oblivious to what impact her leak would have,” Mondesire, 66, told the Tribune-Review in April when Carpenter unsealed the grand jury’s report.
Kane used her political consultant, Joshua Morrow, to deliver documents to Daily News reporter Chris Brennan, the grand jury found.
The grand jury said Kane was trying to retaliate against former top prosecutor Frank Fina, whom she blamed for disclosing her decision not to prosecute black officials in a bribery case. Fina, who works for the Philadelphia district attorney, has denied doing so.
Kane declined to prosecute the so-called “sting case,” saying it was legally flawed. She publicly battled Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who took the case and charged five current and former legislators, and an ex-Traffic Court judge. He has obtained four guilty pleas to date.
Kane “took no action in response to the leak” and did not disclose to senior staff that she was responsible, the grand jury said.
First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer testified that Kane 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.’ ”
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].