Monday, December 22, 2014


Molly Ivins once wrote of President Bill Clinton: "I have wasted more time and space defending Clinton than I care to think about. If left to my own devices, I'd spend all my time pointing out that he's weaker than bus-station chili. But the man is so constantly subjected to such hideous and unfair abuse that I wind up standing up for him on the general principle that some fairness should be applied."

That's pretty much how we feel about Attorney General Kathleen Kane at this point.

We can't explain why she claimed to have an affidavit she didn't have. We can't defend it. But the fact remains that Agent Kevin Wevodau did claim in a unsworn memo that Agent Claude Thomas indicated the Philadelphia sting was tainted by racial targeting.

Regardless of what Thomas actually said, there's no denying that race was indeed a factor. Only one of the primary targets of the sting is white, and he has a very strong case that he was targeted because he's criticized the Attorney General's legislative corruption probe.

Certainly, Kane appears to have made a buffoon of herself. But that doesn't automatically mean the sting former Deputy AG Frank Fina's conducted was above-board and by the book. Three other Attorneys General refused to pull the trigger on the case. With no solid prospect of an actual prosecution, Fina rushed to cut a deal with informant Tyron Ali before Kane even was sworn into office.

The filing of charges by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, where Fina now is employed, is far from proof that Kane was wrong not to pursue the charges. So far, D.A. Seth Williams' efforts have yielded a single conviction of conflict of interest, with similar plea bargains likely for the other defendants. In glossing over Ali's credibility problems, Fina's defenders have made much of the "smoking gun" recordings of defendants accepting gifts. What's been ignored is that, while a prosecutor can throw any evidence he chooses before an investigative grand jury (with no objection from a defense attorney), no judge would admit those recordings in a trial without sworn testimony of identification. And the only one who can provide that testimony is Tyron Ali.

Furthermore, Ali handed out "sting" cash to at least one barmaid with whom he was friendly, for her Carribean vacation. That fact alone is solid evidence of how shoddily-supervised the operation was - evidence the grand jury certainly never got to hear.

Even Kane's harshest critics are aware Williams' crusade has noting to do with justice for small-time politicos and their petty grasping.  Williams' feud with Kane stems from her exposure of Fina's appallingly shoddy work in the Jerry Sandusky investigation and his dissemination of smutty and offensive emails.

Kane has fired staffers implicated in the email scandal. Former OAG employees who've been exposed - Department of Environmental Protection Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo, DEP Counsel Glenn Parno, Board of Probation and Parole member Randy Feathers, Lancaster County Assistant DA Rick Sheetz, - have been deemed unfit for public service. Supreme Courth Justice Seamus McCaffery retired in disgrace.  Chris Carusone, who also served in Gov. Tom Corbett's cabinet, was forced to resign from his private-sector law firm. 

Only Williams, who continues to employ Fina and two other prosecutors implicated - Patrick Blessington and Marc Costanzo - is content to allow men with spectacularly poor judgement to decide the fate of others. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille was troubled enough by Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaking information from a grand jury investigating the former Philadelphia NAACP leader Whyatt Mondesire that he authorized a special grand jury investigation into the matter.

Yet, it appears that Castille has leaked secret information about this new grand jury examining Kane:

“Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille told reporters that some of the documents in question constituted grand jury material, which would be confidential…. Questioned by reporters at the annual Pennsylvania Society gathering in New York, Castille countered that at least one of the documents that appeared in the Daily News story should have been confidential. ‘It was a detective's statement,’ said Castille, speaking to two reporters at the Metropolitan Club.” (Philadelphia Inquirer 12/14/14)

So, because of grand jury secrecy rules, there is a detective’s statement that Kane should not have provided the Daily News. If she is precluded from revealing it because it is secret, then how can Castille discuss it?

Furthermore, would not Castille’s revelation that the detective statement is at the center of the new grand jury investigation be a further violation of grand jury secrecy rules?

The law is incredibly clear that Castille is violating the law because discussing anything in a grand jury is verboten:

“All evidence, including exhibits and all testimony presented to the grand jury, is subject to grand jury secrecy, and no person may disclose any matter occurring before the grand jury, except…Defendant in a Criminal Case…[and] A grand jury witness may disclose his or her testimony”. (PA Code Rule 556.10)

We suppose that Castille could say that he is not violating the secrecy rules because he wasn’t sworn in as part of the Mondesire grand jury proceedings.  Fair enough, but that in turn raises further questions.

First, how much different would this excuse be than Kane’s for leaking information from the Mondesire grand jury:

“Reading prepared remarks, [Kane] acknowledged that her office had released information, but said it did so ‘in a way that did not violate statutory or case law regarding grand jury secrecy.’….’Nothing she said suggested in any way that she committed a crime - because she didn't commit a crime. She didn't cross any ethical line," said Gerald Shargel, a New York City criminal defense lawyer.” (Philadelphia Inquirer 11/19/14)

It sounds like Shargel’s interpretation of the law is based on his reading of Title 42 which seems to give Kane wiggle room from Rule 556.10 given that she was not part of the Mondesire grand jury, and consequently, not sworn into secrecy:

“a juror, attorney, interpreter, stenographer, operator of a recording device, or any typist who transcribes recorded testimony may disclose matters occurring before the grand jury only when so directed by the court. All such persons shall be sworn to secrecy, and shall be in contempt of court if they reveal any information which they are sworn to keep secret.” (Title 42 Subchapter D Section 4549)

If this interpretation also applies to Castille openly discussing that the detective’s statement was at the center of the grand jury investigating Kane, then who leaked to him the information that the detective’s statement was at the center of its investigation?

Who has the authority over the Chief Justice to authorize a grand jury to investigate the leaks from a grand jury that is investigating leaks from a grand jury?