Pennsylvania AG Faces New Perjury Charge

by | October 2, 2015

By Angela Couloumbis, Craig R. McCoy and Laura McCrystal

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, already facing a host of criminal charges for allegedly leaking confidential information and later lying about it to a grand jury, was charged Thursday with a new felony count of perjury.

In addition to lying about the leak, prosecutors now say Kane lied to a grand jury about an oath of secrecy she signed in 2013. That oath barred her from releasing investigative materials that they say she provided to a newspaper in a bid to embarrass a foe.

Last month, investigators with the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office searched Kane's office and found the oath, which Kane signed shortly after taking office. In it, she swore to keep confidential decades' worth of grand jury investigations.

Kane, 49, wearing jeans, a plaid shirt, a charcoal blazer and high boots, appeared for her arraignment Thursday before the same magistrate district judge she faced when originally charged.

"Nice to see you again," Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar said to Kane. She kept bail unchanged at $10,000, payable only if Kane fails to appear for a future hearing.

Outside the courtroom, Kane was defiant and said: "You can arrest me two times. You can arrest me 10 times. I'm sure this is not the end of the game. But I will not stop until the truth comes out."

Kane, a Democrat, has said the case against her was set in motion by angry Republican men who resented her efforts to crack down on a misogynistic culture in Harrisburg. She told reporters she had recently discovered e-mails with pornographic and racially offensive content that had been sent and received by a sitting state Supreme Court justice.

Her spokesman, Chuck Ardo, later identified the justice as J. Michael Eakin, a Republican who has served on the court since 2002. He said Kane gave copies of the e-mails to the state Supreme Court, the Judicial Conduct Board and the state Ethics Commission on Monday.

Kane's critics have said the offensive e-mails are irrelevant to the criminal case against her.

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, who is leading the team prosecuting the case, noted Thursday that Rebar, at Kane's preliminary hearing, had rejected arguments from her defense about the relevance of the porn.

Kane is now charged with two felony counts of perjury and with 10 misdemeanors. She faces three misdemeanor counts of official oppression, two of false swearing, two of obstruction, and three of conspiracy.

Steele said the new charges reflected cooperation from Kane's staff.

"It comes after brave people from the attorney general's office came forward," he said.

Kane has denied any wrongdoing. Ardo said she stands by her vow to remain in office while fighting the charges against her.

The oath that gave rise to the new perjury charge could prove key in the larger case against Kane, who is charged with leaking secret grand jury material to The Philadelphia Daily News in a bid to embarrass a political enemy, Frank Fina. He is a former top prosecutor in her office with whom she had been feuding.

Kane and her lawyers have repeatedly said she never took an oath of secrecy covering the information from a 2009 investigation she is accused of leaking. The lawyers say that at the time, Kane was a stay-at-home mother, was not involved in the grand jury investigation at issue and thus, broke no law by making the grand jury material public.

That argument collapsed Sept. 17 when detectives conducted another search of Kane's Harrisburg offices and found that she had, indeed, signed a secrecy oath.

The case against Kane was put together by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and Steele.

In a criminal complaint, prosecutors said Kane, four top aides and two members of her security detail, signed oaths of secrecy on Jan. 27, 2013, two days after the inauguration. Kane and the others pledged secrecy for all current and past grand juries convened by her staff.

Kane is charged with leaking confidential information about an investigation of a Philadelphia civil rights leader who was alleged to have mishandled state money. The investigation ended without any charges being filed.

Prosecutors say Kane's goal in releasing the information was to plant a story suggesting that Fina, who had overseen that criminal inquiry, had not aggressively pursued it. Fina has denied that.

During the arraignment, when Kane learned that she would need to be fingerprinted again by detectives, she whispered to her lawyer that her fingerprints have not changed.

Rebar told her that every case file must be accompanied by fingerprints, and even as a public figure she was not exempt from that requirement.

(c)2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer