It’s been more than a week since Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she would transfer a lightning rod of an investigation to the Philadelphia district attorney’s office.
There’s no consensus among defense lawyers on whether the case could result in successful prosecutions at this point.
The sting that allegedly caught eight public officials on tape accepting money or gifts was flawed, Kane said. She said she would gladly refer the case to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williiams who now employs the lead prosecutor on the investigation. But before that, Kane said the undercover informant involved, Tyron Ali, had thousands of charges against him dropped in a “deal of the century” with prosecutors.
That will make it tough to bring charges against the public officials involved, said Matt Mangino, a defense lawyer and former Lawrence County district attorney.
“The defense is going to make the confidential informant the key element to this case,” said Mangino. “I don’t know how you could possibly prosecute it when there’s been public discussion about the credibility of your star witness.”
But Bill Costopoulos, who has defended several public officials facing corruption charges, said the star witness will be the audio tapes. In case documents, Ali’s lawyer claimed his client recorded eight state lawmakers taking money in exchange for some action.
“This case will be driven by what’s on those tapes,” Costopoulos said.
Kane’s office wrote to Williams on April 9 to offer a transfer of the case. A spokeswoman said Williams responded the same day and hasn’t heard anything since.
Last week, Kane held a news conference after a Dauphin County judge unsealed documents related to the investigation. During the session, she implored Williams to take over the prosecution, instead of casting aspersions on her office for not bringing charges.
“Step up to the plate, if he thinks it’s a great case,” Kane said. “You have concurrent jurisdiction. Take the case.”
Tasha Jamerson, Williams’ spokeswoman, said any actual transfer will require documentation the DA’s office has not received. “You have to put it in written form that you would like them to take over the case,” said Jamerson. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, if you want the case, you can take it.’ That’s not the way it’s done.”
The state AG’s office declined to comment.