Kane's attorney: 'Angry men' out to hurt Pa. attorney general
PHILADELPHIA — The lawyer for Attorney General Kathleen Kane on Saturday unleashed a barrage of criticism at unnamed Republicans he suggested have tried to “railroad” Kane and insisted she will not resign, even if charged with a crime.
“She will remain in office,” Lanny Davis, Kane's attorney and crisis communications specialist, said during a 90-minute news conference proclaiming her innocence.
A statewide grand jury has recommended that Kane be charged with perjury and contempt of court, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday. The case involves the leak of what may have been grand jury investigative material to the Philadelphia Daily News.
“I did nothing illegal. Period,” Kane said Friday.
Kane, 48, of Clarks Summit is the first woman and Democrat to serve as elected attorney general.
Davis said Kane authorized the release of a 2014 summary of a grand jury investigation that was not covered by secrecy laws. She had said in November that she knew her office gave documents to the Daily News, but she did not believe they were covered by grand jury secrecy.
Kane was not aware the newspaper received a 2009 document, Davis said. Asked if Kane takes responsibility for the 2009 document going to the newspaper, Davis said, “She does not” because she still has “no idea” how the Daily News got it.
The grand jury documents in the cases are related to a Philadelphia political activist who was never charged.
Davis said he cannot confirm that the grand jury made recommendations about Kane.
“The record is under seal,” he said.
He said his remarks are based on the notion of “if” The Inquirer's report is true.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, a Republican running for county judge, will decide whether to move forward with the case, The Inquirer reported.
Kane is a target because she unearthed pornographic emails sent by top state officials and for those who carry personal and political grudges against her, Davis said.
“To me, it smacks of the politics of personal destruction,” said Davis.
Some are “angry men” out to hurt her politically and legally, he said. A “vague order” from a judge prevents him from naming names, the lawyer said.
Davis said those involved in sending pornographic emails during the administrations of former Republican attorneys general were “embarrassed and angry” that she revealed many of them last fall in response to newspapers' Right to Know law requests.
The emails were “accidentally” discovered during Kane's review of the investigation that the former Republican attorney general, now governor, Tom Corbett conducted of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky, Davis said. Kane's investigator ultimately found no evidence that Corbett delayed the Sandusky probe for political reasons. The former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted, and he's behind bars.
Kane was a “stay-at-home mom” in 2009, and under the law, the attorney general is not specifically identified as an official sworn to grand jury secrecy, Davis said.
The special prosecutor and judge overseeing the statewide grand jury are Republicans, he said.
In response to anyone saying she should resign, Davis referred to the long-held belief that any prosecutor can indict a “ham sandwich” and the “Alice in Wonderland” world in which she's been prejudged.
“Sentence first, verdict afterward,” he said quoting that book.
If Kane were charged and convicted, she would be the second attorney general in nearly 20 years to stand accused of crimes. Former Republican Attorney General Ernie Preate resigned and pleaded guilty to mail fraud in 1995. He served 11 months in prison.
Political experts offer these potential scenarios for Kane:
• She avoids criminal charges, but the grand jury report is released, serving as political fodder for Republicans and emboldening some Democrats to challenge her in the primary.
• She is charged, and despite other Democrats pressuring her to resign, she remains in office and fights to the end. House Republicans ramp up impeachment efforts.
“Pennsylvania officials are not compelled to resign if criminal charges are filed; they are presumed innocent until proven guilty just like any other defendant,” said Kyle Kopko, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College. “However, she will be under tremendous pressure to resign if formally charged, and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives may move forward with impeachment proceedings.”
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, said he would refile an impeachment resolution that stalled in the last session.
• If Kane is charged and remains in office, it would cause a distraction for Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, who takes office Jan. 20, analysts said.
Wolf will be “putting pressure on her (to resign), I'm sure,” said Jack Treadway, a former political science professor at Kutztown State University and author of a book on state elections.
“He (Wolf) doesn't need this. He's swimming upstream anyway against a Republican legislature. I'm sure there will be incredible pressure behind the scenes,” Treadway added.
Wolf said Friday that it would be premature to comment.
• In the case of a resignation or impeachment, the governor would appoint a new attorney general with the consent of the Pennsylvania Senate, Kopko said. Based on tradition, an interim statewide official usually agrees not to run for the office. It makes the confirmation more viable because the appointee is in effect a “caretaker.”
”I see her resignation as the most likely outcome if criminal charges are filed,” he said.
Ken Smukler, a Philadelphia Democratic consultant, does not think Kane will step down or agree to a plea bargain: “I don't see Kathleen Kane pleading in this. I look at Kathleen Kane like a Jane Orie.”
Smukler was referring to the former North Hills Republican senator convicted of using public resources for her campaign and doctoring court documents. Orie continued to deny wrongdoing after serving a prison sentence.
The fact that Kane hired Davis and high-powered New York City criminal defense attorney Gerald Shargel is a sign she's “going to the mattresses,” said Smukler, borrowing a line from the “Godfather” movie.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.