McCaffery apologizes for porn e-mail, accuses Castille of 'cooked-up controversy'

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Pennsylvania state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery poses in his Center City Philadelphia office Jun. 11, 2010. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

Breaking weeks of silence, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery apologized Thursday for sending sexually explicit e-mails to state employees, then blasted the high court rival he said used the "cooked-up controversy" to carry out a "vindictive pattern of attacks" against him.

In a statement, the 64-year-old jurist unloaded on Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille for exposing the racy correspondence, which McCaffery called private and personal. "He is fixated on taking down a fellow justice with his misleading statements and incredible hypocrisy," the statement read.

It was McCaffery's first substantive comment in a scandal that began as a sideshow to state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's review of her predecessors' work. It has since cost five state officials their jobs and opened a new, bitter, and public battlefront in a long-running war between two of the state's top jurists.

The chief justice, reached Thursday during the dedication of a new Family Court building in Philadelphia, declined to discuss McCaffery's remarks. "I don't respond to name-calling," he said.

McCaffery acknowledged that he was spurred by the decision by Castille's office Wednesday to release information showing McCaffery had sent or received more than 230 e-mails between 2008 and 2012 that included sexually explicit images, videos, or other content, including some sent to work e-mail accounts of state employees.

Castille has said McCaffery's sexually explicit e-mail traffic "undermined our moral authority" and the respect of the citizenry for the court system. He wants his colleagues on the high court to either suspend McCaffery or refer him to the state's Judicial Conduct Board for possible violations of the code of ethics that governs judges' behavior.

"It's a cloud over all of the courts," Castille said last week.

McCaffery, a former Marine and Philadelphia police officer, did not dispute the number or content of the e-mails - and expressed contrition, of sorts. He said crude language and coarse jokes were part of the military and law enforcement vernacular.

"That's not an excuse, just a fact," he wrote. "Unfortunately, personal, private e-mails between me and some longtime friends were never meant to be viewed by anyone else, but they were. I sincerely apologize for my lapse in judgment. I erred and if I offended anyone, I am truly sorry."

But the bulk of his one-page statement was directed at Castille.

He characterized the moral outrage expressed by Castille as "incredible hypocrisy" and part of the chief justice's "egomaniacal mission to 'get me.' "

"He has done everything possible within our court to undermine me with my colleagues, and that didn't work," his statement read.

Relations between Castille and McCaffery, both Philadelphians, have been tense since McCaffery joined the high court in 2008.

By some accounts, McCaffery, a Democrat, became upset when Castille, a Republican, did not name him liaison to the Philadelphia courts that year. Castille has sharply criticized McCaffery in connection with referral fees from law firms paid to his wife, who is also his top judicial aide. McCaffery said Thursday that the chief justice also reported the matter to the FBI.

McCaffery is suing The Inquirer over articles that explored those fees. That lawsuit is pending.

For his part, McCaffery has challenged Castille on issues ranging from the development of the new Family Court center to his handling of the "Kids for Cash" scandal in Luzerne County.

He said he viewed the chief justice's latest attempts to dislodge him over the pornographic e-mails as an eleventh-hour attempt to "finish what he has been trying to do" before Castille's state-mandated retirement at the end of this year.

"Since being elected to the Supreme Court in 2007, I have had to cope with one incident after another. Why?" McCaffery asked in his statement. "I am very proud of my record of public service to my city, my commonwealth, and our nation."

The messages first surfaced during Kane's review of her predecessors' handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse investigation and are part of a cache of thousands of sexually explicit messages passed among current and former government prosecutors and law enforcement personnel.

Five men, including three high-ranking officials in Gov. Corbett's administration, have lost or left their jobs in recent weeks after being named as porn e-mail recipients.

The latest, Randy Feathers, retired from the state Board of Probation and Parole on Wednesday. He was preceded by E. Christopher Abruzzo, the onetime head of the Department of Environmental Protection, and Glenn Parno, a top aide to Abruzzo. Two other former members of the Attorney General's Office, Chris Carusone and Rick Sheetz, have also resigned or lost their jobs this month.

 


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