Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was ordered Monday to stand trial on charges including perjury and obstruction of justice over accusations she leaked secret grand jury information to the press in an attempt to discredit a political rival, then lied about it under oath. Kane, a Democrat, allegedly targeted Frank Fina, then a high-profile state prosecutor who had worked under Kane’s predecessor as attorney general, Republican Tom Corbett, before Corbett was elected governor.
While she failed in her bid to have the charges dismissed, Kane did claim one victory Monday, when photographers hoping to get a shot of her walking into court were duped in spectacular fashion. If you know your target has a twin, there’s no excuse for not being on your guard for exactly this kind of diversionary tactic:
Entering the courtroom, Kane’s twin sister, Ellen Granahan, acted as a decoy for photographers who took shots of her instead of Kane who walked in behind her.
After [Kane entered] the courtroom, photographers and reporters waiting outside in the hallway griped about only getting shots of the attorney general’s twin sister.
Monday’s hearing was the latest chapter in the saga of Frank Fina and Kathleen Kane, which has all the pettiness and backstabbing that one expects from a good state-politics feud. Kane declined in 2014 to prosecute Democratic Pennsylvania lawmakers accused of taking bribes in a sting case Fina put together, with Kane implying that Fina was motivated by racism to target Black Caucus members. After Fina fought to have the case reopened, several legislators were later convicted, and Kane suspected Fina of working with the Philadelphia Inquirer on the paper’s unflattering accounts of Kane’s involvement in the case.
In retaliation, prosecutors say, Kane revealed to the Philadelphia Daily News details of grand jury proceedings in a 2009 case led by Fina. The current charges against Kane include “official oppression” stemming from the damage done to the reputation of Jerome Mondesire, head of the Philadelphia NAACP and the subject of the grand jury investigation, which ended without an indictment.
During Monday’s preliminary hearing, Kane’s attorney Gerald Shargel argued that media scrutiny of Mondesire’s leadership at the NAACP had already destroyed his reputation before Kane had a chance to. “You can’t destroy it a second time,” Shargel said, according to the Morning Call. Prosecutors called his contention that a person previously accused of wrongdoing couldn’t be further disparaged “absurd.”
Shargel further claimed that if Kane had been out to discredit Fina, who now works for the Philadelphia district attorney, she didn’t need to accuse him of dropping the ball in prosecuting Mondesire. A chain of “X-rated” office emails Kane discovered during an internal investigation into Fina’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky molestation case, Shargel said, had provided a much easier option:
“The attorney general knew full well that Mr. Fina had a pornography collection of thousands and thousands of images, inappropriate statements, misogynist points of view and disgraceful conduct,” [Shargel] said.
Prosecutors quickly objected and District Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar cut Shargel’s comments off.
“You’ve gone very far afield. This is not a press conference,” she said.
Evidently unswayed by Shargel’s arguments, Judge Rebar ended the four-hour hearing by denying his motion to dismiss and ordering Kane to stand trial on all charges, with her arraignment scheduled for Oct. 14. Kane’s driver, former Dunmore, Pennsylvania police chief Patrick Reese, is due in court in early September on charges that he snooped in grand jury files to report back to Kane on which of her subordinates had been cooperating in the current investigation against her.
If convicted on the most serious charge, felony perjury, Kane faces up to seven years in prison.