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All eyes are on Risa Vetri Ferman in Kathlen Kane case

| Saturday, May 2, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman will decide whether to prosecute Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman will decide whether to prosecute Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

HARRISBURG

The release of a grand jury report outlining why prosecutors think Attorney General Kathleen Kane should be charged with crimes will create more public pressure on Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who is deciding whether to file charges.

It makes it more likely the state's top law enforcement officer will face criminal charges, said Northampton County DA John Morganelli, a Kane supporter. When Ferman might make her decision is the buzz at the state Capitol.

Ferman, a Republican candidate for judge in the May 19 primary, is expected to wait until after the election. But those close to her say she has no arbitrary deadline and won't act until she is ready.

Kane, the first Democrat and the first woman elected attorney general, maintains she's done nothing wrong. The grand jury alleged she lied and covered up an illegal grand jury leak intended to hurt a political opponent.

“There will be much more pressure on Ferman to prosecute Kane as a result of the release of the grand jury report,” said Kyle Kopko, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College. “The grand jury report is damning; Kane's testimony is contradicted by multiple deputies and former staff members at the Office of Attorney General.” Morganelli said the release of the “summaries of the testimony, and the conclusions of the grand jury, now in more detail and in context, are not helpful to AG Kane's contentions and makes it more likely that charges will ultimately be filed.”

Ferman has declined comment.

Steven Peterson, a political science professor at Penn State's Harrisburg campus, isn't convinced the presentment is a slam-dunk but the result could be the same.

Peterson saw some points that “were not necessarily persuasive about Kane's inappropriate involvement. That is, some of the evidence does not seem very strong to me.” But it “appears that some of her own people testified in a direction contrary to some of her statements.”

“I would think that this would make it easier for (Ferman) to proceed.”

But said Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, a Republican running for his former post of district attorney, “Where it can get tricky is that public opinion has gone even further against Kane and there doubtless will be outside pressures on the DA to decide more quickly.

“My assessment, however, is DA Ferman will decide when she is good and ready and not before. She is a professional and this is a decision she cannot get wrong. She knows that.”

Bruce Ledewitz, a Duquesne University law school professor, said that, by all accounts, Ferman is a person of integrity and running for judge will not be a factor.

That said, an impeachment resolution likely will be re-activated in the state Legislature. “I think there will be increased calls for impeachment,” Elizabethtown's Kopko said. “But I would imagine that the General Assembly will not act until there are formal charges filed or Kane is on the brink of conviction.”

Brad Bumsted is the Trib's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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