HARRISBURG - Just three weeks before Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's criminal trial is scheduled to begin, her top aides interviewed the son of a key witness against her for a job in her office, raising questions of conflict and concerns about inappropriate influence.
Matthew Peifer was interviewed in the Norristown office of the Attorney General's Office on Monday morning by Kane's chief of staff, Jonathan Duecker, and another agent, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Peifer was being interviewed for an agent position in the Child Predator Unit, which is headed by Kane's twin, Ellen Granahan.
Peifer is the son of David C. Peifer, a onetime Kane confidant and a top agent in the Attorney General's Office who last year agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for immunity.
Matthew Peifer and David Peifer could not be reached for comment.
Kane spokesman Jeff Johnson said neither Kane nor David Peifer was involved in the hiring process for the position for which Matthew Peifer interviewed. He said Matthew Peifer was a top candidate and the position has not been filled.
Furthermore, a Kane spokesman said Kane was unaware that the younger Peifer had even applied for the job.
Asked whether Kane believed there was a potential conflict in having her office interview a family member of a key witness in her upcoming trial, Johnson said, "All of our prospective employees are considered on a case-by-case basis. We review their credentials to determine whether they are a good fit for the position for which they applied."
Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Columbia Law School, said interviewing the son of a key witness raised troubling issues.
"Out of an abundance of caution, many defense attorneys would tell their clients to stay far away from witnesses and their families, particularly when it comes to offering them things," Richman said.
Kane, 50, a Democrat, is facing perjury, conspiracy, and other charges for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information to the Daily News and lying when asked about it under oath.
Prosecutors from the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office contend Kane leaked the information to get revenge on a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina, with whom she was feuding. The Daily News story suggested that Fina failed to aggressively pursue a criminal investigation into the financial dealings of onetime Philadelphia NAACP leader J. Whyatt Mondesire in 2009.
Kane has pleaded not guilty, and her trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 8.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said that he was not aware of Peifer's son having been interviewed for a job in Kane's office, but that his office would look into it.
David Peifer is a top commander of the office's agents and was once a member of Kane's close-knit inner circle.
In the affidavit laying out the criminal charges against the attorney general, prosecutors identified Peifer and another Kane confidante as having spied, at Kane's direction, on the grand jury investigation into the leak to the Daily News. Peifer was not charged in the case.
In court hearings, Peifer has testified that he gave Kane a key document that ended up being given to the Daily News. Kane has testified that she did not authorize the release of specific documents and that she did not know details about how they were delivered to the newspaper.
Kane has also said that she had never seen another investigative document quoted in the Daily News story until it was shown to her during her grand jury appearance in November of 2014. But Peifer has testified that at Kane's request, he arranged for his administrative assistant to email the attorney general the document last summer.