Tuesday, January 27, 2015

AS PREDICTED RIGHT HERE: Charges Against Democrat AG Kane "Postponed Indefinitely" Two Days After New Democrat Pennsylvania Governor Wolfe Seated


Debate envelops Kane and documents

Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane has said it was about transparency: The public needed to know about a criminal investigation that ended without charges against a prominent Philadelphia civil rights leader.

Her critics say it was about something else: payback.

Many details of the leak that now threatens to derail Kane's career remain mysterious - even as a statewide grand jury has concluded that her office "improperly and unlawfully" released confidential materials related to a 2009 case.

The grand jury recommended criminal charges against Kane, according to documents released last week.

The panel's presentment is under seal. It will likely remain so for weeks, and perhaps forever, as Kane fights the legality of the process by which the grand jury reached its conclusion.

But this much is known: In the spring of last year, Kane and some of her top deputies huddled in her office to discuss the 2009 case involving the president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, an investigation begun and closed under her Republican predecessors.

Soon after, an envelope with information on the case was prepared by Kane's office and then delivered by her then-top deputy to a Philadelphia-based campaign operative, who turned it over to a newspaper.

By any measure, the delivery of this packet has backfired on Kane with a grand jury's call for her arrest on charges of perjury, false swearing, obstruction, and official oppression.

Kane and her chief spokesman, lawyer Lanny J. Davis, say she wanted the public to know that the prosecutor in the case had elected not to pursue a potential case against J. Whyatt Mondesire, then the head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.

"She campaigned on transparency," Davis said this month. "She saw the issue of prosecutorial discretion was an important issue, and the public has a right to know when cases are brought or initia'ted and when they're not."

According to numerous people familiar with the matter, the session in Kane's executive offices in which the 2009 case was reviewed took place only days after The Inquirer reported in March 2014 that Kane had secretly shut down an undercover sting. The operation had caught Philadelphia public officials, all Democrats like Kane, on tape pocketing cash.

Her critics say Kane blamed the former state prosecutor who launched the sting, Frank Fina, for the newspaper's account.

As it happened, Fina also oversaw the Mondesire inquiry. Her detractors say Kane put out the details of the closed 2009 case to embarrass him.

Davis denies that. "It wasn't about the sting case," he said.

It is unclear how Kane even learned of the 2009 case, a matter resolved years before she took office.

It was not until November, five months after a grand jury began investigating the leak, that Kane acknowledged she had approved the release of information to the Philadelphia Daily News.

According to people familiar with the matter, Kane agreed that her top aide in 2014, lawyer Adrian King, would drive from Harrisburg to Philadelphia with information about the old probe. He then handed it off to Josh Morrow, a veteran political operative, to get it to the Daily News.

Davis, Kane's personal spokesman, spoke in detail about this at a news conference this month, recounting, "She said to Mr. King: 'I have no problem with this being released and do what you have to do,' or something to that effect."

He added: "All of these implications were floating in the media. She saw this [information about the 2009 case], and she said this needs to see the light of day. And that was consistent with transparency."
In making her defense, Kane has walked a careful line.

She has asserted that she authorized the release of only one document, which she believed was not confidential, and said she has no idea how secret grand jury information ended up in the newspaper.
The Daily News story quoted extensively from two documents. One was a 2009 memo that said investigators had uncovered "what appeared to be questionable spending" of state money by Mondesire.

The other was a 2014 transcript of' an interview in which a top Kane aide was sent to discuss the 2009 investigation with an agent involved in the old case.

The interview took place March 21, 2014, five days after The Inquirer story on the sting.

The agent told the aide he had used a subpoena to obtain bank records and had developed evidence suggesting Mondesire used NAACP money for personal use.

The agent said he was pulled off the case and "criminal activity was just ignored" after Fina and another prosecutor learned about the allegations.

(Mondesire denies any wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime.)

In Kane's defense, her lawyers have drawn sharp lines between the two documents. Davis has said Kane approved the release of only the 2014 transcript and that it was not a record bound by grand jury secrecy.

As for the other document, Davis said: "Attorney General Kane never saw, read, or authorized the disclosure of that 2009 memo. To this day, she still hasn't read that memo."

If Kane did not put the 2009 memo in the envelope, who did?

Said Davis: "We don't know. I have suspicions, and she has suspicions."

Nor has Kane tried to find out, he said. Kane has not questioned staff about it, he said, apparently out of fear that that would look as if she were interfering with the leak probe.

To some, Kane is raising a meaningless distinction.

L. George Parry, a veteran Philadelphia lawyer who has supervised grand juries, said the 2014 transcript appeared to reveal confidential material, too.

"All of it dealt with secret grand jury proceedings," he said. "The secrecy doesn't wear off over time. It's not like tooth enamel."

Henry E. Hockeimer, King's colleague at the Ballard Spahr law firm in Philadelphia, issued a statement on his behalf:

"Mr. King has provided truthful and complete cooperation to the special prosecutor and to the grand jury. In light of a non-disclosure order we are limited in what we can say. We do, however, look forward to when all of the facts are disclosed and can be discussed."

King, who left Kane's staff in June 2014, was one of the many witnesses who appeared before the grand jury.

Morrow, Kane's spokesman during her successful 2012 campaign, could not be reached for comment.

Mondesire has denounced the Attorney General's Office and the Daily News and said any suggestion of wrongdoing was baseless.

Davis said Kane had not sought to harm Mondesire.

"I certainly think she wants me to say to Mr. Mondesire - she never intended to disparage your reputation," he said.

Fina, too, declined comment, beyond saying he had pursued the Mondesire inquiry faithfully.

In the end, the Daily News story focused primarily on Mondesire, far less on Fina.

In its attribution, the article cited "documents obtained by the Daily News" and said the Attorney General's Office had declined comment.

Davis said the lack of comment from Kane's office did not mean she was trying to hide her involvement or that she or staff believed the leaked documents were grand jury material.

"That's a reasonable inference," he said. "I say it's a wrong inference.

"If it was so fine, why didn't she have a press conference and hand it out?" he asked rhetorically, in response to a reporter's question. "She could have done that, too. And maybe in retrospect that's a way to go. But that's not the way it's usually done. That's the honest answer."


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