Question of Kane prosecution now up to Montgomery County district attorney

Listen

In a rare, somewhat awkward legal twist, Montgomery County’s district attorney must now decide whether to bring criminal charges against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

In December, a Norristown-based grand jury recommended that Kane be charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and other offenses after she allegedly leaked sealed grand jury materials to reporters in order to embarrass her predecessors.

Afterward, Kane argued that a Montgomery County judge wrongly assigned a special prosecutor to the case.

On Tuesday, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shot down Kane’s attempt to derail the case. That means her fate is now squarely in the hands of Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.

Talk about uncomfortable.

For starters, the prosecutor who leads a grand jury typically decides whether to file charges. Until now, Ferman has had no connection to the case.

Suffice it to say, it’s also unusual for a local district attorney to be staring down a case involving the state’s top prosecutor.

“The local district attorney, ordinarily, would be on the same side of just about any issue you could think of in terms of law enforcement,” said veteran Philadelphia prosecutor George Parry.

For Ferman, the case is also a bit of a political hot potato.

She’s a Republican. Kane is a Democrat.

What’s more, Ferman is running to be a judge this year.

“Republicans, if she doesn’t prosecute, doesn’t bring charges, they may not be very happy about it. Democrats, conversely, if she does, may be unhappy with it. I don’t think there’s a situation which she faces that doesn’t have some political downside,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.

Ferman, who declined an interview, released a statement saying the case will be reviewed with a “commitment to fairness, integrity and justice.”

“Should further investigation be warranted, the District Attorney’s Office and Detective Bureau will undertake such independent investigation as necessary. Upon the conclusion of the law enforcement investigation, the District Attorney’s Office will review the applicable laws and make determinations as to whether criminal charges are warranted against any individual,” said Ferman Wednesday.

There’s no deadline for Ferman to make up her mind.

Kane’s lawyer has said he hopes Ferman will vindicate his client. Kane, still in her first term, has maintained her innocence throughout.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.