Jury: A.G. Kane guilty of perjury, obstruction, all other charges

Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane was found guilty on Monday of all charges in her perjury trial.

Update: The court on Tuesday set sentencing for 10 a.m. Oct. 24, according to the case docket sheet. That's a week before the election to determine her successor in office. 

Earlier Story

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane was convicted Monday of perjury, obstruction, and other crimes, after squandering her once-bright political future on an illegal vendetta against an enemy. 

Four years after Kane's election in a landslide as the first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general, a jury of six men and six women found her guilty of all charges: two counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor counts of abusing the powers of her office.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele persuaded jurors that Kane orchestrated the illegal leak of secret grand jury documents to plant a June 2014 story critical of her nemesis, former state prosecutor Frank Fina. Kane then lied about her actions under oath, the jury found.

Kane, 50, who rose from a hardscrabble upbringing in Scranton to win a statewide post in her first bid for office, was stoic as the verdict was read. Her twin sister, Ellen Granahan, a prosecutor on her staff, was with her in court.

The jury deliberated for 41/2 hours before pronouncing Kane's guilt in a verdict that her lawyer, Gerald Shargel, called "a crushing blow." He vowed to appeal. Shargel said no decision had been made about whether Kane would resign from office. Gov. Wolf, who had called for Kane to resign after her arrest, said Monday night that she should now do so immediately.

Kane, for her part, left the courtroom without addressing reporters.

Steele called the jury's decision just. "We had somebody who felt that she was above the law," he said of the attorney general.

Montgomery County Court Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy ordered Kane to surrender her passport by noon Tuesday. While allowing Kane to remain free on her own recognizance, the judge barred her from retaliating against witnesses and said that if she did so, she would be jailed.

"Is that clear, Ms. Kane?" the judge demanded, her voice rising.

"Yes it is, your honor," Kane replied, in her only public remark Monday.

The judge set no date for sentencing, but said it would take place within 90 days.

Under the state constitution, Kane must resign from office by the day of her sentencing. While Kane faces a maximum sentence of 28 years, state sentencing guidelines call for a far less severe sentence for someone like her with no criminal record. 

Kane sought revenge against Fina because she believed he was the source for a March 2014 Inquirer story reporting that she secretly shut down an undercover sting operation that recorded Philadelphia officials accepting cash from a lobbyist. Fina, for many years the head of corruption cases for the Attorney General's Office, launched the sting before Kane took office. 

Michelle Henry, who joined Steele in presenting the prosecution case, painted Kane as heedless of the law as she carried out her crimes.

"She knew it was wrong, she knew it was against the law, and she didn't care," Henry told the jury. "She did it for revenge. And after that happened, she covered it up with lies."

In its verdict, the jury found Kane guilty of perjury in two instances: That she lied about her involvement in the leak and cover-up, and that she lied again in telling a grand jury she had not signed a secrecy oath pledging not to reveal confidential grand jury information. Prosecutors later found such an oath signed by Kane.

>> What’s next for Pa. after Attorney General is convicted?

As Kane fought with Fina, their war kept spreading to new fronts. In a feud that riveted the state's legal and political communities, Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams - both Democrats and the state's two top law enforcement officials - became enemies. 

Williams, who hired Fina as a prosecutor after he left the state payroll, ended up resurrecting the sting investigation. At last count, five defendants - four former state legislators and a former president judge of Philadelphia Traffic Court - had pleaded guilty or no contest to corruption charges.

Williams accused Kane of erroneously suggesting that race had played a role in the selection of targets in the investigation.

The accused, Williams said, "took money not because they were targeted or tricked, or because of their race. They took it because they wanted the money."

Kane, in scrutinizing Fina's handling of a past case, found a powerful weapon. While examining Fina's work investigating sex offender Jerry Sandusky, she learned that Fina, among many others in her agency and elsewhere in government, had been swapping pornographic emails on state computers for years. 

She denounced the offensive emails and complained that her public stand against them had led to her arrest. This fueled a burgeoning scandal that eventually cost several top officials their jobs, including two justices of the state Supreme Court.

Kane is the first attorney general to be convicted of a crime since 1995, when Ernest Preate resigned as the state's top law enforcement official and served a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to fraud related to a campaign contribution. 

Despite a relatively thin resumé - a dozen years as an assistant district attorney in the Scranton area - Kane campaigned ably in 2012, selling herself as a newcomer without ties to the establishment. She picked up support by criticizing the investigation of Sandusky, a former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach, a stance that paid off with strong support from voters in areas close to the university. 

In her first year in office, Kane won media attention for her stands in favor of a gun-control measure and marriage equality. But that was also the year she shut down the sting, doing so under court seal with no word to the public.

When the Inquirer disclosed her decision in a story the following year, Kane was livid.

"I will not allow them to discredit me or our office," Kane wrote in an email on the day the article appeared. "This is war."

In her public remarks, Kane savaged the sting investigation, called it "half-assed," poorly planned and managed, and too weak to lead to any convictions. More seriously, she said the cases might have been marred by racial targeting.

But, the jury found, she also orchestrated the leak, dispatching two associates - her second in command, Adrian King, and political consultant Josh Morrow - to act in relay as couriers to deliver the leaked material to a reporter with the Daily News.

The result was a story quoting a detective as saying Fina failed to aggressively pursue 2009 allegations that J. Whyatt Mondesire, a veteran civil rights leader in Philadelphia and head of the city chapter of the NAACP, had misused state money. Mondesire, now deceased, was never charged with any crime. Fina has defended his handling of the case.

Morrow later became a key prosecution witness against Kane, in tandem with King. Morrow told jurors that the point of the leak was to strike back at Fina. In court, Kane's lawyers blasted both King and Morrow as liars. 

"The commonwealth is asking you to rely on them. . . . You would not even buy a used car from either one of them," said Seth Farber, one of six lawyers on Kane's defense team.

Morrow said later that he and Kane plotted together to pin the crime solely on King. "We had conspired to create this story that wasn't true," Morrow told the jury. "Kathleen and I came up with a story that she was going to testify to and I was going to testify to."

From even before the Daily News published its story, Fina, 50, fought back tenaciously. When the Daily News reporter contacted him for comment for the pending story, Fina immediately reported to authorities that the journalist had gained access to secret grand jury material. 

This triggered the appointment of a special prosecutor, Norristown lawyer Thomas Carluccio, a six-month grand jury probe led by him, a three-month investigation by Montgomery County prosecutors and detectives, and, ultimately, Kane's arrest a year ago on charges of perjury, obstruction, official oppression, false swearing, and conspiracy.

In defending herself, Kane blamed Fina. She said he had "corruptly manufactured" the charges against her to block her from exposing his troubling emails. But after prosecutors contended that the pornographic emails had no relevance to the criminal case, Demchick-Alloy, who presided over the trial, barred Kane from making that charge in court.

Still, before the trial, Kane publicly criticized Fina and District Attorney Williams, sparking a political crisis for Williams after six years in office. She helped drum up sustained public criticism of the district attorney for his decision to stand by Fina and other former prosecutors on his staff who had been implicated in what inevitably came to be called Porngate in Harrisburg. This summer, Fina, after years as a federal, state and city prosecutor, quit Williams' staff

While Kane and Fina battled, the Attorney General's Office has been in turmoil. Kane has gone through a string of spokesmen and top aides. High-profile cases have unraveled, a sullen staff has had to endure multiple investigations, and ex-prosecutors and supervisors have filed a blizzard of lawsuits against Kane. So far, taxpayers have shelled out nearly $600,000 to cover expenses settling or fighting those suits. 

During her trial, no fewer than five former or current Kane aides provided damaging testimony against her. One, David Peifer, the office's head of special investigations, testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution, as did Morrow. 

In the spring, though, Kane finally bowed to the political realities: a depleted campaign fund, $1.6 million owed to her husband (whom she is divorcing) from her last race, and negatives in polling.

The onetime star among Pennsylvania Democrats, the woman who pundits had said was destined for the U.S. Senate or even higher office, announced that she would not seek reelection

She pledged to fight on in court, though. As Wolf, a fellow Democrat, and others pushed for her to step down, she stayed on - even after the state Supreme Court suspended her law license after she was criminally charged.

"A resignation would be an admission of guilt, and I'm not guilty," Kane said.

Prosecutor Henry had a different view. After the verdict, she said, "There are great men and women that work in the Office of Attorney General - great prosecutors, great agents, great support staff. They have had to suffer through what this defendant has done, not just to them, but to the citizens of this commonwealth. I am glad that the end is finally in sight."

Continue Reading