Criminal violations unlikely in Pa. ‘porngate’ probe

    Special Prosecutor Douglas Gansler says he;s not expecting to find strong evidence of criminal violations in the nearly 2 million emails his team is sifting through.(Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Special Prosecutor Douglas Gansler says he;s not expecting to find strong evidence of criminal violations in the nearly 2 million emails his team is sifting through.(Emma Lee/WHYY)

    The special prosecutor appointed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane to review material in the “porngate” scandal says he doesn’t expect to find strong evidence of criminal violations in the nearly 2 million emails his team is sifting through.

    “You could imagine technical violations of obscenity laws or pornography laws — and absent child pornography, which we have not seen any of yet — it’s difficult to imagine there would be criminal prosecutions,” said Douglas Gansler, the former Maryland attorney general. 

    But while he’s not ruling out the possibility of criminal charges, Gansler said it is more likely those involved violated state ethics laws or workplace policies.

    If that is the case, “those potential ethical violations will be referred to the appropriate ethics board or ethics regulator and that committee or commission or board would have the opportunity to bring charges,” he said.

    And that’s where his involvement in the matter would end, he added.

    Since Kane appointed him in December, Gansler said his team — which includes a handful of lawyers from his Washington, D.C. firm, Buckley Sandler — has finished narrowing down nearly 2 million emails using a computer algorithm.

    “We have terms, inappropriate terms, that we put into that system, and the system identifies emails that could potentially be relevant,” he said, noting names of individuals known to be involved in the scandal were not put into the algorithm.

    Now, the team is reviewing messages sent or received by prosecutors, judges and other members of the state judicial system that include pornographic, racist and other questionable content.

    Gansler said he expects to release a report on his findings before August. That’s when Kane is expected to stand trial on perjury and other criminal charges for allegedly leaking secret grand jury material and lying about it under oath.

    So far, Gansler’s review has cost the state $67,000

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