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Top aide to Attorney General Kane convicted of indirect criminal contempt

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Attorney William Fetterhoff (left) and his client Patrick Reese, a top aide to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, walk outside of the courtroom during a recess in his contempt hearing on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown.

NORRISTOWN — A top aide to Attorney General Kathleen Kane will appeal his conviction on a charge of indirect criminal contempt after sentencing, his attorney said Tuesday.

Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter swiftly convicted Patrick Reese, 48, the special agent in charge of Kane’s security detail who was accused of accessing secret information to keep Kane apprised of employees testifying against her before a grand jury. Carpenter requested a pre-sentencing report.

Reese, free on non-monetary bond, could get up to six months in jail.

“We’re disappointed,” said his attorney, William Fetterhoff. Reese will appeal the conviction to Superior Court, Fetterhoff said.

Reese, a former Dunmore chief of police, showed no emotion.

“You heard it,” he said with a shrug when asked about the verdict.

Kane’s spokesman, Chuck Ardo, said she would have no comment until the legal process is complete.

Whether Reese can remain employed with a crim­inal conviction is unclear.

“We’ll have to see,” Ardo said. “It is our understanding that Mr. Reese intends to take legal steps that preclude the (office) from acting against him.”

Until recently, Reese was Kane’s bodyguard and driver. He remains an investigator who is paid nearly $100,000.

Several top aides testified that he is close to the attorney general, who faces criminal charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and official oppression in connection with leaked grand jury material from a 2009 case in which a former Philadelphia NAACP leader was never charged.

Prosecutors say Kane masterminded the leak to embarrass former state prosecutor Frank Fina and then lied to cover her actions.

Fetterhoff said Deputy District Attorney Thomas McGoldrick did not establish that Reese was aware of a protective order Carpenter issued to prevent interference with the grand jury investigating Kane — a factor essential to a conviction.

But McGoldrick said it is “inconceivable” that Reese would be unaware of an order that was widely discussed among Kane’s top aides and important to her.

Witnesses testified that Reese conducted “hundreds and hundreds” of searches of the attorney general’s email system, some of which dealt with the judge’s order.

“He willfully violated the protective order, with wrongful intent,” McGoldrick said.

The searches clearly sought information about the grand jury, McGoldrick said. Many included searches for the judge’s email and those of the special prosecutor, Tom Carluccio.

Fetterhoff said there’s no evidence Reese read any of the emails. He was legitimately investigating whether there were grand jury leaks from the office, Fetterhoff argued.

Renee Martin, Kane’s former communications director and Reese’s only witness, testified Tuesday that there was concern in the office about leaks. Reporters often had more information than she did, Martin said, and stories about the grand jury investigation were reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer before Kane’s office knew.

But McGoldrick said it defies common sense to think that Reese searched for and located the emails but didn’t read them. One search was for “Fina and Carpenter,” an audit of the email system showed.

“What would that have to do with leaks to the press?” McGoldrick said.

Going to such lengths and then not reading the material is “utterly laughable,” he said. “You do not open a can of soup and not eat it.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter.

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