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2 more resignations tied to pornographic emails on Pa. state computers

| Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, 5:05 p.m.
Chris Carusone, the former head of appeals, no longer is employed in Harrisburg by the Philadelphia law firm Conrad O’Brien.
Lancaster Newspapers
Richard Sheetz, the former executive deputy attorney general, resigned from the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office.

HARRISBURG — Two more people lost their jobs because of a pornography scandal tied to their former employment in the state Attorney General's Office.

Rick Sheetz, the former executive deputy attorney general, resigned from the Lancaster District Attorney's Office, and Chris Carusone, the former head of appeals, no longer is employed in Harrisburg by the Philadelphia law firm Conrad O'Brien.

Sheetz, who could not be reached, quit his prosecutorial job because documents released by Attorney General Kathleen Kane implicated him in the exchange of emails with nude photos and sex videos, District Attorney Craig Stedman said Wednesday.

Sheetz received 58 emails but did not forward any several years ago when he and Carusone worked for then-Attorney General Tom Corbett, now the Republican governor.

Carusone “is no longer here,” said a spokeswoman for Conrad O'Brien who would not identify herself. She did not give a reason. The firm removed Carusone's biography from its website.

Though Carusone could not be reached, people close to him said the parting was amicable and by mutual agreement because of the sensitive situation.

Carusone and Sheetz are among eight former employees whose emails Kane released. Two others resigned from state posts in Corbett's administration: Department of Environmental Protection Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo and a DEP lawyer, Glenn Parno.

Kane, a Democrat who took office in 2013, released emails from 2008 to 2012 in response to open records requests by the Tribune-Review and other newspapers. Her office initially rejected the Trib's request, saying the emails are not public records. She said she released some of them, with some names blacked out, because they were in the public interest. She will not release any implicating 30 current employees of the office.

Kane has not made public the name of the person who forwarded the emails to the eight ex-employees.

Corbett has said he did not know that staffers shared such emails on office computers and would have stopped it.

The governor last week asked Randy Feathers, a former supervisory agent in the office, to resign from the Board of Probation and Parole. Feathers refused.

Carusone joined Corbett's administration in April 2011 in the Office of General Counsel. He became Corbett's secretary of legislative affairs five months later, making $145,740. Carusone was a “model of personal integrity,” devoted to duty, Corbett had said.

In his position with the Attorney General's Office, Carusone was part of a team that prosecuted lawmakers and legislative employees for using public resources for campaigns. That “infuriated” some Republican legislative leaders, Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Roddey said last year — though Carusone said no one mentioned the prosecutions when he worked for the governor.

Carusone received 52 emails and forwarded three, Kane said. Abruzzo received 46 and forwarded eight. Parno got 178 and forwarded 10. Feathers received 436 and forwarded 39.

Kane also implicated State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and Kevin Harley, Corbett's former press secretary. She said both received pornographic emails but did not forward any. Corbett has said Noonan told him he didn't open any of the emails.

The eighth former employee, former Deputy Attorney General Patrick Blessington, remains an assistant prosecutor with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Blessington has not commented about it.

Fresh Start, an adjunct to Democrat Tom Wolf's gubernatorial campaign, urged the Corbett campaign to “part ways” with Harley and his employer, Quantum Communications. The Corbett campaign and state Republican Party have paid the firm $146, 817.

“Our contract is with Quantum Communications for their reputable experience in politics and communications,” said Chris Pack, communications director for the Corbett campaign. “Furthermore, the information that the Attorney General's Office provided indicates that Kevin Harley did not participate in opening, originating, forwarding or replying to any of the messages.”

Wolf leads Corbett in polls in the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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