BY MATT RICCHIAZZI
Barely four years after winning a landslide election as Pennsylvania’s first female Attorney General, Kathleen Kane was convicted Monday of perjury, obstruction, criminal conspiracy, and other crimes relating to an illegal vendetta against a political enemy. The prosecutor, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, convinced jurors that Kane deliberately leaked secret grand jury documents in order to smear her nemesis in a June 2014 story that she planted in The Philadelphia Daily News. She then lied about her actions under oath, the jury found.
The jury deliberated for only 4.5 hours. Her attorney is vowing to appeal the verdict.
Kane was ordered to surrender her passport by Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Allow. The judge explicitly barred her from retaliating against witnesses in the case. If she does so, the judge warned, she would be jailed.
Kane sought revenge against Frank Fina, a prosecutor in AG’s office before she was elected. She believed he was the source for a March 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer story reporting that she had secretly shut down a sting operation targeting Philadelphia officials who were caught on tape accepting cash. Fina was the head of corruption cases for the Attorney General’s Office.
Michelle Henry joined Steele in prosecuting the case. She painted Kane as heedless of the law as she carried out her crimes.
“She knew it was wrong, she knew it was against the law, and she didn’t care,” Michelle Henry, who joined Steele in prosecuting the case, told the jury. “She did it for revenge. And after that happened, she covered it up with lies.”
The jury was convinced that she orchestrated the leak by dispatching two associates to deliver the leadked material to a reporter with the Daily News. The associates included her deputy and a political consultant. A front page story resulted that attempted to discredit Fina for his handling of allegations against a civil rights activist’s use of state money.
Fina fought back aggressively. When contacted for comment by the reporter, Fina immediately reported to law enforcement that the journalist had gained access to legally sealed grand jury documents. That triggered the appointment of a special prosecutor, Norristown lawyer Thomas Carluccio, and a six month grand jury probe ultimately led to Kane’s arrest a year ago charges of perjury, obstruction, official oppression, false swearing and conspiracy.
The last Pennsylvania Attorney General to be convicted of crime in office was in 1995 when Ernest Preate resigned and served a year in prison after pleading guilty to fraud related to a campaign contribution.