Does Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane remember promising to stay mum about old court cases? That question is at the center of a new perjury charge against the commonwealth’s beleaguered top prosecutor.
Kane’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel, argued in a preliminary hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse that she at most made an “innocent mistake” in sworn testimony from last year.
In that case, alleging the attorney general leaked information about a 2009 grand jury case to the Philadelphia Daily News, Kane testified that she was under to no obligation to stay quiet about cases argued before her tenure.
During a search of Kane’s office following that statement, detectives found a signed and notarized oath of secrecy from her first few days in office. The oath required her “to keep secret all matters transpiring in the grand jury room” unless she had court permission to release it, a detective testified.
Shargel, fighting to have the latest charges against Kane dropped at the Tuesday preliminary hearing, said there was no evidence she intentionally misled a grand jury hearing her contempt case last year.
“There’s no evidence she remembers signing the oath … and no evidence of intent, or that what she misspoke about was material to the contempt issue,” Shargel, a prominent New York lawyer, argued before Montgomery County Magistrate Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar.
Kane should be held to a higher standard, Shargel said to reporters after the hearing. “But cut her a little slack.”
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele argued otherwise.
“They made an argument that she never signed the secrecy oath … then they went to the Supreme Court and said again she never signed a secrecy oath,” he said at the same press conference. Rebar continued the case to the Court of Common Pleas.
Kane now faces a criminal trial on two felony perjury charges and nearly a dozen misdemeanors, including conspiracy and official oppression. No trial date has been set.
Kane, the first woman and Democrat elected to the position of Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor, has dismissed the case as a backlash over her challenge to what she calls the old-boys’ network in Pennsylvania law enforcement.
She smiled but declined to comment throughout her appearance Tuesday afternoon at the county courthouse in Norristown.
Kane is set to be arraigned on the latest charges in January.
The state Supreme Court has suspended her law license in October, in response to an ethics complaint linked to the grand jury leak.
This week, a panel of state senators began hearings to decide whether to remove Kane from her post.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.