Friday, August 7, 2015

Attorneys general in 2 states face serious charges in same week

Washington (CNN)On Thursday, a rising star in the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania was charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy after allegedly leaking secret documents to a reporter to harm her predecessor, a criminal complaint says. 

Just three days earlier, another top law enforcement official, this time a Republican in Texas, was charged with counts of securities fraud; he's accused of soliciting investors in a hometown company without disclosing he was profiting.

These types of cases -- unconnected except for their timing and elements of political retribution -- are not uncommon, legal analysts say.

"Attorneys general are politicians, and they run into the same problem that other politicians do," CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said. 

"These two cases are common cases of white collar crime -- abuse of power and fraud -- and it just so happens that these two defendants are attorneys general," Toobin added.

Both defendants maintain their innocence, but the allegations and timing raise similar suspicions of political motives behind the charges and what happens when the top law official tasked with upholding the law allegedly goes rogue.

The case in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged Thursday with obstruction and conspiracy after she allegedly leaked confidential information about grand jury deliberations to the media and then attempted to cover it up. 

The back story -- allegations riddled with political motives and retribution -- is primarily rooted in two newspaper articles. 

It began in March 2014, the criminal complaint says, when The Philadelphia Inquirer published a story called "Sources: Kathleen Kane shut down probe of Philly Democrats."

That investigation at the center of that article was into individuals "who had been caught in an undercover sting involving politicians accepting bribes." The investigation was inherited by Kane from former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank G. Fina before he left office, the criminal complaint said.

Kane "was angry about the article," the complaint alleges, and that same day wrote an email to her media strategist, saying "I will not allow them to discredit me or our office," and ending with, "This is war."

Her media strategist replied, "make war with Fina but NOT to make war with the Inquirer."

The criminal complaint alleges that Kane then orchestrated the leaking of secret 2009 grand jury documents conducted under Fina and a senior deputy attorney general that looked into the misuse of grant money by an NAACP boss. 

The NAACP boss was never charged with any crimes pertaining to that investigation, the complaint says.

Accused of scheming to leak confidential information

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, a Republican who filed the charges against Kane, said that Kane had "devised a scheme to secretly leak confidential information and secret grand jury materials" for retribution against Fina. Montgomery County is just north of Philadelphia.

Ferman said Kane did this "in the hopes of embarrassing and harming former state prosecutors whom she believed, without evidence, had made her look bad."

The other charges brought by Ferman allege that Kane then lied under oath to a grand jury about knowledge of the 2009 documents and her involvement in leaking them to journalists, among other things, to help cover up the crime.

Kane, elected in 2012 and talked about by Pennsylvania Democrats as a top political contender in the state, vehemently denies the allegations.

"I intend to defend myself vigorously against these charges," she said in a statement. "A resignation would be an admission of guilt and I'm not guilty."

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf called on her to step down Thursday, calling the charges "troubling."

"She is entitled to her day in court. She is entitled to due process under our system of government and law, and she will have time to defend herself and I think she needs to do that," Wolf said.

"But in the meantime, I'm calling on her to step aside, step down as attorney general, because I don't think she can do what she has to do as the top law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania while she's facing these serious charges," he added.

"The chief power an attorney general has is to bring cases and the risk is that they abuse that power for political gain and that is where they get in to trouble," Toobin said.

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StandUp said...

And just because they're AG's doesn't mean they won't break the law.

B Inberg said...

Shame shame shame what a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

There's bigger problems than Kane in Montgomery County, PA. In my opinion, Ferman might be part of the problem, since she allows all kinds of Shenanigans to go on in the courthouse.

Coz said...

I think she is under attack because she has been working with the following families.