Porn Emails Not Allowed to Factor Into Pennsylvania AG's Trial

by | July 29, 2016 AT 11:00 AM

By Craig R. McCoy

A prosecutor in Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's looming criminal trial told a judge Tuesday that Kane's request to tell a jury about her unearthing of offensive emails would mire jurors in "a distraction, a red herring."

But Kane's lawyers said she needed the option of telling the jury about pornographic emails swapped by members of her agency before she took office.

Kane is to go on trial Aug. 8 on charges of perjury, official oppression, and other offenses. Prosecutors say she lied about leaking confidential documents to the Daily News to plant a June 2014 story to embarrass a political foe, former state prosecutor Frank Fina.

Prosecutor Michelle Henry said Kane was angry at Fina and blamed him for an earlier Inquirer article reporting that she had shut down a promising bribery investigation without bringing criminal charges.

In a hearing Tuesday in Norristown -- the last pretrial session held before Montgomery County Court Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy -- Henry said Kane, in a "tit-for-tat" leak, then shopped an anti-Fina story to the Daily News. The article suggested that Fina, too, had once curtailed an investigation.

Kane has said her goal was not to target Fina, but to get important information before the public.

Her lawyer, Seth C. Farber, said Tuesday that prosecutors were wrong about Kane's motivation for the leak, and cited the emails to make his point.

Had Kane really wanted to harm Fina, Farber said, she could have named him in early 2014 as among those who swapped pornographic and otherwise offensive emails -- something "much more devastating to him and his reputation."

Thus, Farber said, Kane might need to argue to jurors that she refrained from using the emails to target Fina.

Henry said Kane should be barred from citing the email traffic, as the attorney general has a history of exploiting the messages at critical moments.

Fina has said Kane explored exposing his exchange of the emails in 2014, saying her operatives urged reporters to file official requests for them. A special prosecutor and judge who examined Kane's role in the Daily News article have also questioned the flurry of requests in 2014 for Fina's emails.

That year, Kane named eight of Fina's associates as having received troubling emails, while complaining that a protective order barring retaliation against witnesses in her criminal case prevented her from identifying him.

However, she termed him a porn "peddler" in a sealed filing later made public by the state Supreme Court.

(c)2016 The Philadelphia Inquirer