Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor has become one of the state’s most high-profile defendants after allegedly leaking secret grand jury information to the press to make one of her rivals look bad.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, 49, is also accused of enlisting aides to spy on office workers, review staff members’ emails and keep tabs on a grand jury investigation into the alleged leak.
Donning a white jacket and matching dress, Kane barely spoke as she was arraigned on charges including a felony count of perjury via closed-circuit television in suburban Philadelphia on Saturday.
She did not enter a plea during the brief proceedings, only responding to the judge with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Following the arraignment, Kane avoided a phalanx of news cameras by leaving via a side door.
Magisterial District Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar set the prosecutor’s bail for $10,000 unsecured bond.
Although Kane remained silent as she walked out of the building, her attorney stressed afterward that she has no plans to resign – despite growing pressure, even among Kane’s fellow Democrats.
‘We’re looking forward to fighting the charges,’ defense lawyer Rost Kramer told the Associated Press in Norristown after the arraignment. ‘She has no plans to resign from her position.’
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele called the case against Kane – who is currently the state’s highest-ranking female officeholder an important one for the citizens of the commonwealth.
“It’s a sad day in that there’s been arraignment now for the chief law enforcement officer in the state,’ Steele said, adding: ‘We’re here to proceed with the case and bring justice.’
Kane allegedly first decided to leak confidential grand jury information after the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story on her, alleging that she had shut down an investigation into state Democrats.
Kane reportedly blamed the lead investigator on the case, Frank Fina, for the story’s publication and her subsequent embarrassment, and decided to punish him, according to The Atlantic.
‘This is war,’ she apparently told an adviser via email in March 2014.
In a bid to make Fina and some of her political opponents look bad, Kane leaked a number of secret details to the Philadelphia Daily News about Fina’s handling of an historic corruption case, it is said.
All of these details were based on confidential grand jury information, according to prosecutors.
Then, as an inquiry into the leak was launched, Kane allegedly got her driver and confidant, former Dunmore police chief Patrick Reese, to snoop on office employees’ sent and received emails.
Reese, one of Kane’s ‘closest confidants’, reportedly combed through emails for ones about the special prosecutor investigating Kane’s case, and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
He also scoured other state employees’ emails – and found some had exchanged pornographic emails, it is said.
And he even allegedly entered queries for correspondence between Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and Inquirer reporters Craig McCoy and Angela Couloumbis’, Philly.com reports.
Reese was looking for information to expose Kane’s enemies and keep her informed about the grand jury that was investigating the leak. He was being directed in his spying by Kane, prosecutors say.
However, Kane a political newcomer in 2012 when she became the first woman and first Democrat elected as Pennsylvania attorney general, maintains that she is innocent of any wrongdoing.
She has portrayed herself as a victim of payback for taking on a corrupt, old-boy law enforcement network and exposing state employees for exchanging pornographic emails.
But her support among fellow Democrats has faded in the aftermath of a Thursday news conference, during which District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman outlined specific allegations and filed more than a half dozen charges that also included two misdemeanor counts of obstruction.
Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat who took office in January, was among those joining political leaders and editorialists calling for her resignation following Ferman’s announcement.
Former Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, who authorized the grand jury probe that led to the charges and who retired in December, said Friday that Kane should step down.
But she has refused to resign and many critics are exploring possible ways to force her out of office.
Castille said the court, working through its disciplinary board, could order an emergency suspension of Kane’s law license if it believes her alleged misconduct has been “egregious.”
Though Kane would have 10 days to fight a suspension, Castille said a suspension would force her out of office because the state constitution requires the attorney general to have a law license.
‘How can you function as a top law enforcement official facing a felony charge?’ he asked.
Another possible scenario calls for Kane’s impeachment by the Legislature, a process in which the House brings charges and the Senate acts as the jury.
While Kane’s charges also include obstruction of justice and conspiracy, Reese has been charged with indirect criminal contempt for his alleged role in the spying operation, AP reports.
Last year, Kane admitted to a grand jury that she had leaked some information, it is said.
However, she reportedly denied any of it was covered by grand jury confidentiality laws.
A preliminary hearing in Kane’s case has been set for August 24.