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Subpoena orders Attorney General Kane to testify about Philadelphia bribery case

| Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, 5:02 p.m.

HARRISBURG — A subpoena served Thursday on state Attorney General Kathleen Kane compels her to appear in Dauphin County Court to explain her contention that racism tainted a legislative bribery case she refused to prosecute.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico issued the subpoena ordering Kane to testify next week. Kane was served the subpoena in Scranton, her spokesman Chuck Ardo said.

Former state prosecutor Frank Fina, who works for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, is to testify on the same day about the undercover bribery investigation he supervised.

Williams took the case involving six Democratic officials when Kane refused to pursue it because she said the investigation was legally flawed and appeared to be tainted by racial targeting since all of the officials are black.

A would-be lobbyist working undercover videotaped the encounters. He claimed to be representing businesses that were fictitious.

Four of those charged pleaded to conflict of interest. Three are current or former legislators who took cash; a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge accepted jewelry.

Fina is scheduled to testify in the case of Rep. Louise Bishop of Philadelphia, who is fighting bribery and conspiracy charges. She's accused of pocketing $1,500.

Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Evans ordered Fina to testify because Bishop's attorney, Charles A. Peruto Jr., filed a motion claiming racial profiling.

Evans took more than five months to decide whether to allow testimony on racial profiling.

Kane likely will oppose the subpoena, but she “has not yet started that process,” said Ardo.

Williams' office argued her testimony is vital.

“An order compelling Kane's appearance would ensure the person who first raised the issue — and the only person who has ever claimed that the investigation was motivated by racial targeting — will be present for the hearing and answer questions under oath,” prosecutors said in a court filing on Monday.

The motion included a footnote reserving their right to issue a subpoena.

Williams and the lead investigator on the bribery case, former state prosecutor Claude Thomas, are black. A grand jury that investigated the so-called “sting case” was dominated by minority jurors, Williams has said, and that jury rejected any notion of a racially motivated investigation.

Thomas must also testify in the case, Evans ruled.

Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown of Philadelphia also is fighting the corruption charges.

The undercover operation began in 2010, three years before Kane took office.

Tyron Ali taped elected officials accepting money in return for agreeing to support bogus legislative issues. Ali went along with the plan as part of a deal with prosecutors because he had been arrested on fraud charges.

Kane shut down the case not long after she inherited it and approved an agreement dismissing 2,088 charges against the phony lobbyist.

The attorney general is accused of 12 criminal counts in Montgomery County related to leaking secret information from a 2009 investigation. Prosecutors claim she wanted to embarrass Fina because he did not prosecute that case involving a former Philadelphia NAACP head.

Kane blamed Fina for making public the fact that she did not pursue the bribery cases, investigators said.

She has said that Fina and former state prosecutor E. Marc Costanzo “corruptly manufactured” a grand jury investigation of her because they wanted to keep quiet the fact that they had viewed pornography on state computers.

Kane has released some emails with pornographic and otherwise offensive material shared among attorney general's staffers, police, judges and others. Investigators found the emails on agency computers during a review of the child molestation prosecution of former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

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

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