Some ‘porngate’ emails could undermine prosecuting Pa. state reps for corruption

 Louise Williams Bishop (Image via Pennsylvania House of Representatives)

Louise Williams Bishop (Image via Pennsylvania House of Representatives)

Some of the so-called “porngate” emails could undermine a controversial corruption case involving state lawmakers from Philadelphia.

But it’s not the pornography defense attorney Charles Peruto is interested in.

“I’m concerned about the racial content,” he said. 

Peruto’s client, state Rep. Louise Bishop (D), is one of the five Philadelphia lawmakers who was accused of taking cash from an informant posing as a lobbyist. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams picked up the case after it was abandoned by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who claimed the probe intentionally targeted black officials.

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Kane later revealed two of the prosecutors on the case — Frank Fina and Marc Costanzo — were part of the infamous email chain while they worked at the state attorney general’s office. (Fina, Costanzo and another former A.G. prosecutor, Pat Blessington now work for the Philadelphia D.A.’s office.) One of the emails shows a white man, carrying a bucket of fried chicken and sparring with two black men. A caption on the photo reads, “Bravery at its finest.”

So far, three other state representatives have pleaded guilty in the corruption sting. Bishop and state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown are fighting the charges.

The connection between the racist emails and the cases against Bishop and Brown was first reported by the Philadelphia Daily News

“The emails themselves would not carry the day for Louise Bishop,” Peruto said. “They are a small piece…of circumstantial evidence to corroborate why these prosecutors would only go after the black caucus and not the white politicians that the informant gave them.” 

A spokesman for Williams said the District Attorney’s office does not comment on active cases.

A growing number of elected officials — including nine Philadelphia city councilmembers — and a women’s advocacy group have called on Williams to fire Fina, Costanzo and Blessington. Instead, the three men were among a group of D.A. staffers who received sensitivity training on Friday.

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