Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Is Convicted on All Counts

By JESS BIDGOODAUG. 15, 2016 /

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Kathleen G. Kane, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, was convicted Monday night of nine criminal charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy.

It was a stunning end to the political career of Ms. Kane, once an ascendant Democratic star, whose fall came when prosecutors here accused her of leaking grand jury information, and then lying about it, in an effort to discredit a political rival.

Just hours before, Ms. Kane, whose lawyers called no witnesses in her defense, had taken her seat at the defense table for the better part of four hours listening to the closing arguments in her own trial — the latest step in a strange political spectacle that has turned Ms. Kane from a rising political star to a criminal defendant.

Ms. Kane, who faced nine charges, including perjury and criminal conspiracy, was accused of leaking secret grand jury documents to the news media in an effort to discredit a political rival, the prosecutor Frank Fina, and then lying to cover it up.

“‘This is war,’ the defendant’s words,” said the lead prosecutor, Kevin Steele, in reference to an email written by Ms. Kane. “Wars have casualties. Wars leave scars.”

In a nearly two-hour closing statement, wrought with text messages, newspaper front pages and grand jury testimony, Mr. Steele painted a picture of Ms. Kane trying to “go on the offensive” after a newspaper article that criticized her for shutting down an undercover investigation into possible corruption by Democratic state representatives. Prosecutors say she believed Mr. Fina was behind the story.

Ms. Kane, he said, sought to leak details from a 2009 grand jury investigation into the financial affairs of J. Whyatt Mondesire, a former leader of the N.A.A.C.P., because she wanted residents to know that Mr. Fina had chosen not to prosecute. She then lied about it when a grand jury investigated, Mr. Steele said.

A defense lawyer, Seth Farber, said the state had not proved its case, urging the jurors not to take Ms. Kane’s words out of context.

“Things that the commonwealth says do not hold up to scrutiny when you look at the actual evidence,” Mr. Farber said, and cast blame instead on two prosecution witnesses: Adrian King, a former deputy to Ms. Kane, and Josh Morrow, a political strategist who was given immunity to testify.

“Those are two witnesses who will say whatever they need to in order to protect themselves,” Mr. Farber said, adding, “You would not even buy a used car from one of them.”

Ms. Kane, who is the first woman and the first Democrat elected as Pennsylvania’s attorney general, said in the past that she had been targeted by the same old-boy network that she has sought to scrutinize. But in court, she has been silent: While her defense team cross-examined the prosecution’s witnesses, it rested without calling a single one of its own.

The trial is the latest installment in a surly web of scandal and counterscandal, threaded with lewd emails, political rivalries and alleged leaks. It has cost other state officials, including two State Supreme Court justices, their jobs and Ms. Kane her law license. And, pending the deliberations of the jury, it could land her in prison.

“It turns on the perception that she abused her power. She is the chief law enforcement officer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said David Zellis, a former prosecutor in Bucks County who has been observing the trial but is not involved. He added, “I think that it’s turned the whole criminal justice system in the state upside down.”

Ms. Kane was elected in 2012 after she campaigned with a promise to review the investigation into Jerry Sandusky, the assistant football coach for Penn State who was convicted of sexual abuse, which was led by the attorney general at the time, Tom Corbett, and Mr. Fina. She did not find evidence of political interference, but Ms. Kane did find that lewd and racist emails had been exchanged by state officials, and began to release them to the news media.

She has said that some in the state’s male-dominated political establishment have concocted her political difficulties to retaliate for the disclosures and to prevent more emails from being leaked.

After the article criticizing Ms. Kane was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer in March 2014, prosecutors said, she orchestrated the release of information from the grand jury investigation — which is secret by law — to The Philadelphia Daily News. In doing so, prosecutors said, she asked her political consultant, Mr. Morrow, to pick up an envelope from the home of her deputy and deliver it to a reporter.

In court, Mr. Steele played a recording of a conversation between Mr. Morrow and a person he called for advice.

“Kathleen is, like, unhinged,” Mr. Morrow said on the tape, adding, “Instead of having a strategy to do this, it’s like, let me just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.”

Mr. Steele also showed text messages between Mr. Kane and Mr. Morrow.

“Where’s my story?” asked Ms. Kane, at one point. “I’m dying here while you’re out drinking.”

The article ran that June and, Mr. Steele said, Mr. Mondesire, who had not been charged, was never the same.

Ms. Kane’s lawyer, Mr. Farber, denied that she orchestrated a leak and that she lied to a grand jury to cover it up, and he played down the power of her office.

A version of this article appears in print on August 16, 2016, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Is Convicted on All Counts. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s