Kane aide cancels Porngate news conference

Bruce Castor (left) and Kathleen Kane.

Declaring himself dissatisfied with the work of a special prosecutor assigned to investigate "Porngate," the top aide to state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane on Monday abruptly canceled a news conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday for the prosecutor to present his report.

Bruce Castor, whom Kane appointed as her solicitor general when she hired him in March, said he had reviewed a draft report by the special prosecutor, Douglas Gansler, and found it confusing and "not comprehensive."

Castor also said the report should have devoted more attention to whether emails exchanged among prosecutors and judges had compromised cases. He dismissed any suggestion that he was trying to shape Gansler's findings.

"I don't care about the outcome of the report. I just want it to be thorough and complete. I didn't want little pieces of the pie, and that's what I got: I got a porno slice," he said.

"I'd rather hear whether the law was being properly enforced rather than whether a bunch of adolescent emails were being sent around."

In December, when Kane announced that she had hired Gansler to investigate the exchange of pornographic and otherwise offensive emails on state computers, her tone was stinging. "No woman should go to work and be subjected to consistent treatment of disgusting indignity by women-haters because they were born with one less body part," she said at the time.

She brought in Gansler, a former Democratic attorney general of Maryland, to review the email exchanges, to examine whether they included improper conversations among lawyers and judges about pending cases, and to consider whether any crimes had been committed.

Gansler did not return telephone calls Monday. In an email, he referred all questions to Castor.

Castor's role in providing a pre-release critique of Gansler's report was puzzling because Kane, in announcing the appointment of Gansler as special prosecutor, emphasized that he would conduct an independent review.

Gansler, too, stressed that his work would proceed without consultation with Kane or her office. He said would he not speak with her about his report before it was released.

A year after taking office, Kane, the first Democrat and first woman to be elected attorney general, discovered that for years her agency's email servers had been an electronic hub for the exchange of pornography-laden emails among state and federal prosecutors, investigators on her staff, judges, defense lawyers, and others.

Those swapping the troubling emails included two state Supreme Court justices - both of whom resigned in disgrace - and several former top officials of the Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration.

The emails have emerged as the signature issue of Kane's one-term tenure as the state's top prosecutor.

Kane has vigorously proclaimed that the offensive messages were proof of the "old boys' network" she campaigned against in seeking office. "The breadth of this network is incredible," she has said, with the power to "control our finances . . . control our children and our family life . . . control our freedom."

She has blamed her legal troubles on "porn peddlers" who she says orchestrated a criminal case against her to cover up their emails. Kane is scheduled to go on trial in August on charges of perjury and other offenses for allegedly leaking confidential grand jury documents in a bid to embarrass a foe and later lying about it under oath.

Critics say she seized upon and hyped the porn issue as a way to smear enemies. They insist that the emails, however offensive, are irrelevant to the criminal case against her.

Facing highly unfavorable poll numbers and an depleted campaign fund, Kane did not seek nomination to a second term in April's Democratic primary. Gansler's report - Castor said it would come out later this summer - and her trial are expected to be the dominant events of her remaining seven months in office.

For much of her time in office, Kane has worked in an office in which she has been at odds with many of her top aides, notably including her first deputy, Bruce Beemer. Many staffers in her office have testified against her in grand jury proceedings in her criminal case.

And after the state Supreme Court suspended her law license 10 months ago, some of her top aides testified in hearings before the state Senate that they did not believe she could function as the state's top law enforcement officials without an active law license.

Kane sought to remedy that shortcoming when she hired Castor, a former district attorney in Montgomery County, for a newly created job as her solicitor general.

Both Castor and Gansler are being paid at rates equivalent to about $150,000 a year.

In a telephone interview Monday, Castor complained that Gansler, in his report, had failed to include sufficient quotes from the offending emails.

"Looking at the emails, I was unable to follow which folks sent what - and if I can't understand it, how are we supposed to explain it to the public?" Castor said. "There is no way this is ready to go. It was incomplete."

He also said he believed the report should have gone further in examining whether the exchanges between prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges had affected the outcomes of any cases.

In previous reviews of the correspondence, top Kane aides and experts hired by the State Supreme Court and judicial ethics officials have said they could find no evidence of that.

While Gansler spoke out in defense of Kane early on - even volunteering at the December news conference that a bid to impeach her was out of line - he has sent signals over the last six months that he has not wholly embraced her agenda.

In the spring, Gansler told the Inquirer that despite his title as special prosecutor - endowed by Kane with the power to bring criminal charges - he did not expect to call for anyone's arrest. He said government workers who had exchanged porn might have violated workplace rules, but not criminal statutes.

He also said that, as a matter of fairness, his report would not identify anyone who received pornographic emails but did not forward them.

Kane, for her part, has rejected that distinction. She has not hesitated to identify aides who had only received emails-and to call for their firing.

cmccoy@phillynews.com

215-854-4821 @CraigRMcCoy