Kane's car crash conundrum

 

     DUNMORE - Dunmore Police Chief Sal Marchese says he doesn’t get what all the fuss is about.

     Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane was in a car accident last month, when the SUV she was traveling in sideswiped a parked car. An officer went to the scene and wrote up a police report. And that, said Marchese, should have been that.

     “But we keep getting all these calls about it,” Marchese said in an interview Friday. “There is nothing to this. Nothing. There is nothing out of the ordinary.”

     Except that Kane’s office is now saying she is experiencing a myriad of worsening side effects from the accident, including intensifying neck and back pain, and nausea and headaches from a concussion she sustained.

     And there is this: the morning of the accident, Kane was on her way to testify, under subpoena, before a grand jury in Montgomery County examining whether her office leaked secret grand jury material in an attempt to embarrass a political foe. It is an offense punishable by jail time.

     Her next grand jury appearance is scheduled for Monday – and no one knows whether she intends to appear. Last week, her office said her doctors believe she should not return to work until later this month – and only “as tolerable” then.

     Kane has denied repeated requests from The Inquirer for an interview, including one Friday.

     But that doesn’t mean she isn’t talking to the press: she told PennLive/The Patriot News last week that neither she nor her staff leaked anything, and that she follows “the letter of the law.”

     In a letter to her employees earlier this week, Kane went even further: she called “outlandish” any suggestion that the accident was staged in an effort to get out of testifying in the leak inquiry.

     Marchese put it this way: "We wouldn't lose our jobs over something like this."

     Still, there are many unanswered questions.

     The Dunmore police officer who responded to the accident tried to answer some last week.

     In an interview Friday, Joseph Hallinan said that on the morning of the accident, he received a call on his cell phone from Robert Ruddy, a member of Kane’s security detail who was driving. Ruddy is a former Dunmore police officer.

     Asked why Ruddy would call him directly, Hallinan in a small town like Dunmore, it’s not uncommon to reach out to an officer you know.

     “He told me he was in a fender-bender,” Hallinan said of Ruddy.

     When he got to the scene, Hallinan said Kane’s SUV was pulled to the side of the road with its four-way blinkers flashing. He said he spoke with Ruddy and Patrick Reese, who is also on Kane’s security detail and was in the passenger seat when the accident occurred. Reese is the former police chief of Dunmore, mainly known as the hometown of Louis DeNaples, the politically connected former holder of a casino license in the Scranton area.

     Kane, said Hallinan, stayed in the car and he didn’t see or talk to her. Reese and Ruddy said they were going to drive to the hospital to get checked out.

     The damage both to Kane’s car and the 1999 Jeep her SUV hit – which was parked and empty – was minor, said Hallinan. If he had to estimate the speed Kane’s car was traveling, it would be between 10 and 15 m.p.h., he said. The speed limit on the street is 15 m.p.h.

     And what of the disagreement over whether Kane was wearing a seatbelt? Hallinan’s original police report on the accident said she was; Kane’s office said she wasn’t.

     Asked to explain the discrepancy, Hallinan said called it “a typo.” The report, he said, has since been amended.

     As for the Jeep, on Friday it was parked in the same spot it was when it was hit, and it did not appear to have been repaired. The car is pocked with dents and scrapes, and its front passenger side door looks to have been pried open at some point by a crowbar. The back seat and trunk are brimming from floor to ceiling with clothes and other items.

     The owner of the car, Judy Jenkins, did not respond to calls or answer her door.

     A neighbor said in the two-plus years he has lived on that block, the car hasn’t moved.

     --Angela Couloumbis

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