Term about over, state's attorney general goes on trial

State Supreme Court stripped top prosecutor of law licenses

By Maryclaire Dale
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — About 150 potential jurors were set to arrive Monday at a suburban Philadelphia courtroom as Pennsylvania’s attorney general goes on trial in a perjury and obstruction case that follows a four-year term rocked by petty feuds, political intrigue and a pornographic email scandal.

Kathleen Kane remains on the job even though she lost her law license over the felony arrest. An ethics board accused her of “egregious conduct” amid criminal charges she leaked grand jury material to a newspaper to embarrass enemies and then lied about it under oath.

The state Supreme Court voted to strip Kane of the law license, a move she attacked given that two justices were forced to step down as part of her crusade to reveal state employees who traded offensive, racist and sometimes pornographic emails. Dozens of people in her office were also fired or disciplined.

Kane, 50, has said she won’t give up fighting what she calls the “old-boys network” in state government, but she did not seek re-election this year, and her term expires in January. She was the first woman or Democrat elected to the $159,000-a-year job.

“You can arrest me two times, you can arrest me 10 times. I’m sure this isn’t the end of the game,” Kane said after prosecutors added more charges to the case. “But I will not stop until the truth comes out, and I will not stop until the system operates the way it’s supposed to.”

Kane has hired prominent lawyers to defend her: first, Bill Clinton confidante Lanny Davis and now, New York mob lawyer Gerald Shargel. Several former top aides are set to testify against her. The trial judge won’t let the defense wade into the porn email probe.
Jury selection in Kane’s trial starts Monday in Montgomery County, where she appeared before a grand jury investigating the leak of 2009 grand jury information about a former NAACP official. The official was never charged with wrongdoing.

Kane’s attorneys have argued that she only authorized the release of nonsecret information relating to who was charged — and who wasn’t — by her predecessors. And she denied that she was sworn to secrecy about those prior investigations, according to the arrest warrant.

“I was a stay-at-home mom at the time. ... None of us were sworn into that grand jury,” she testified, according to the arrest affidavit.

However, prosecutors said they found a signed oath to the contrary during a search of her Harrisburg offices.

Kane is charged with perjury, a felony, for allegedly lying to the grand jury, and eight misdemeanor counts that include obstruction, official oppression, conspiracy and false swearing.

Her driver, Patrick “Rocco” Reese, was convicted of contempt of court last year after a judge said he illegally snooped through emails about the special grand jury investigation of his boss. Reese is the former police chief in Dunmore, near Kane’s hometown of Scranton.