Grand jury judge leaves porn emails free to be used by AG Kane
HARRISBURG — Nothing apparently bars Attorney General Kathleen Kane from making public pornographic emails found on state computers, but a judge said Thursday that she has not formally asked for their release.
Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter supervised the grand jury that led to criminal charges against Kane. He issued an Aug. 27 order preventing retaliation against witnesses in the investigation of Kane, but he said the emails she cited in a news conference were not part of the evidence.
Carpenter said Kane “has not filed with me any petition, pleading or motion or other request for court action. Accordingly, I will take no action at this time.”
Kane's New York City lawyer Gerald Shargel said out of caution, “We intend to file a motion next week to ensure that no protective order bars release of the information.”
She said at a Wednesday news conference that she wants Carpenter to indemnify her against any civil or criminal action if she releases porn emails that were not among those she released last year.
She said her prosecution can be traced to those involved in sharing the emails among prosecutors and judges. They seek to discredit her and keep their names concealed, she said.
As the grand jury judge, Carpenter said, “I made no decision based upon politics, gender, anger, bias or prejudice.”
Kane said Carpenter is keeping her from telling the whole story behind the charges against her by not lifting an order she claims prohibits the release of pornographic, racial and religiously offensive emails. She blamed Carpenter's “tortured interpretation of our state's grand jury secrecy law.”
The judge's response appears to mean “that the porn emails are not covered by grand jury secrecy and that she can release them without risking a violation of grand jury secrecy requirements,” said Walter Cohen, a former acting Pennsylvania attorney general who is not involved in the case.
Kane's investigators found the emails while reviewing how her predecessors handled the child sex abuse case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Their discovery and the scandal she exposed last year by releasing selected emails started her legal troubles, she said.
She is charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and official oppression. The grand jury and independent investigators for Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Kane schemed to release a secret 2009 investigation to a newspaper, lied under oath to the grand jury and tried to cover up her actions.
The attorney general maintains her innocence.
She pointed to unnamed conspirators who want to bury the “filthy email chain” forever because their careers and reputations would be at risk.
Carpenter's protective order is a general order against witness intimidation, the state's former Chief Justice Ronald Castille told The Morning Call of Allentown. If Carpenter lifted the order, Kane theoretically could seek retribution against employees who testified, the newspaper said.
Ferman has said her investigation continues and includes Kane's April firing of her appellate chief, James Barker, who testified.
Ferman's criminal complaint against Kane alleges explicit and implied threats to employees who testified before the grand jury. The complaint claims Kane's employees meddled in computerized grand jury files to gain information.
The attorney general told reporters that she could not answer questions about her case until Carpenter takes the actions she requested.
She asked the lawyer disciplinary board to halt any potential activity to suspend her law license until Carpenter acts. A citizen's complaint is pending before the board.
Kane would have 10 days to oppose any proposed suspension. The matter does not become public until the state Supreme Court enters a final order. The state constitution requires the attorney general to have a law license.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or email@example.com.