Kane charged with leaking secret information; Wolf calls for her to step down [updated]

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    Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged Thursday with leaking secret grand jury information to seek revenge on her rivals and then lying about it to a separate investigating grand jury.

    Gov. Tom Wolf has called on Kane to step down amid the criminal charges of obstruction, official oppression, perjury, criminal conspiracy, and false swearing filed against her. 

    Kane has vowed to fight the charges.

    Announcing the charges Thursday morning, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Kane waged her own, personal “war” on former state prosecutors she thought had tarnished her public image.

    “This was her war based upon the evidence conducted without regard to the rules, without regard to the law, and without regard to any damage the battle might entail,” said Ferman. “Our actions here today make one thing crystal clear, beyond any doubt – that no one is above the law, not even the chief law enforcement officer of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

    The announcement comes roughly eight months after a grand jury recommended charges in connection with allegations that the attorney general leaked protected information from a 2009 investigation in what witness said was an attempt to embarrass critics.

    In a written statement, Kane maintained her innocence.

    “I remain committed to leading the Office of Attorney General and doing the job the citizens of this Commonwealth elected me to do,” said Kane. “A resignation would be an admission of guilt and I’m not guilty.” The statement was sent by the attorney general’s press office.

    But earlier this year, Lanny Davis, a well-known Washington attorney who helped President Clinton with the Monica Lewinsky case, made a more aggressive and specific case to reporters on Kane’s behalf. He said Kane was being railroaded in the investigation.

    “This railroad train seems to me to be driven my some men with grudges, men who are bitter, and angry at being exposed and professionally embarrassed,” he said.

    Davis didn’t name the men, but noted that Kane is the first woman and first Democrat elected to her post, and that the judge who appointed a special prosecutor to look into the leak and the prosecutor himself are both Republican men.

    Kane’s driver, special agent Patrick R. Reese, was also charged with indirect criminal conspiracy for allegedly accessing secret grand jury material on her behalf.

    “It is clear from the evidence we gathered that while the attorney general orchestrated this scheme and directed the scheme that she did not herself compile the materials and deliver them to Mr. Morrow,” said Ferman, referring to Josh Morrow, who ran Kane’s 2012 campaign for attorney general.

    Kane was not charged in connection to April firing of an employee who testified against her before a grand jury, but more charges could be in the offing. Ferman said the investigation continues.

    Thursday’s announcement stems from a grand jury that investigated Kane and recommended charges against her last year. The case was then referred to Ferman.

    Kane is the second statewide Democratic official in Pennsylvania to be charged with a crime this year. State Treasurer Rob McCord resigned in January after facing federal corruption charges.

    Asked Thursday if Kane should resign, Philadelphia Mayor Michel Nutter, a Democrat, said every public official in a jam has to make his or her own decision, but he noted that the stakes are different for a ranking official in law enforcement.

    “There is an even greater need for the attorney general to serious contemplate her ability to represent the citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania under these circumstances,” Nutter said. “I believe public confidence is more important than personal position.”

    The lack of political support within her own party is striking, since Kane was seen as a rising star when she was elected in 2012.

    Kane is the second elected Pennsylvania attorney general to face criminal charges.

    Ferman said Kane would be arraigned within two days at a public hearing.

    WHYY senior reporter Dave Davies contributed to this report.

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