Witness: ‘My heart sank’ when AG Kane asked him to stop leak investigation

Former deputy attorney general Bruce Beemer arrives at Montgomery County courtroom before being called to continue his tesitimony in the trail of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Former deputy attorney general Bruce Beemer arrives at Montgomery County courtroom before being called to continue his tesitimony in the trail of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Bruce Beemer was “relieved” when he learned a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate a potential leak of confidential documents from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

Beemer, now the state’s Inspector General and a key witness in the Commonwealth’s case against Attorney General Kathleen Kane, was then her second-in-command. 

On Tuesday afternoon, he told the jury in Kane’s criminal trial he had been “shocked” to read an article in the Philadelphia Daily News on June 6, 2014 that referenced two documents from a 2009 grand jury investigation into the finances of former Philadelphia NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire.  Those documents required by state law to remain confidential. Beemer said it was clear to him the materials must have been leaked from the AG’s office, which he found “troubling.”

So when he heard a grand jury investigation into the matter was starting, Beemer was pleased because thought it would send a message to employees in the AG’s Norristown office where he suspected the leak had come from.

‘This was a serious issue’

As he continued his testimony Wednesday morning in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Beemer said he even called the supervising judge, William Carpenter on the phone to pledge the AG’s full cooperation with the investigation.

“We understood this was a serious issue and we would cooperate,” he said.

But on July 28, 2014, Beemer’s “heart sank a little” during a phone call with Kane when she asked him to challenge the special prosecutor’s authority and stop the investigation, either by filing with Carpenter or the state Supreme Court.

“When she said that I was immediately concerned,” Beemer said. “How would we do this? I’d been operating under belief that this was the right course of action, that we really should get to the bottom of all of this.”

When he first called Kane about the story the day it appeared in the paper, Beemer said Kane was unconcerned.

“We have more important things to do,” Beemer testified she told him.

Now, Beemer said he and Kane were going “back and forth” about whether the documents — a memo and a transcript of an interview — should even be considered secret grand jury material protected by law. Kane insisted they were not.

“I believe there’s no doubt that it’s grand jury material,” said Beemer. “If the material in that document can be released, then we might as well do away with grand jury secrecy.”

‘If I get taken out of here in handcuffs’

During another tense exchange in October 2014, Beemer said Kane told him: “If I get taken out of here in handcuffs, what do you think my last act will be?”

When prosecutor Michelle Henry asked if Beemer still believed the Norristown office was responsible after that conversation, he said he “feared it was not.”

Kane is accused of orchestrating the leak of those documents to her former first deputy, Adrian King who delivered them to a political consultant named Josh Morrow. Morrow allegedly gave the documents to then-Philadelphia Daily News reporter Chris Brennan.

‘I don’t think anybody could stop the AG’

During cross-examination, Kane’s defense attorney Douglas Rosenblum brought up the two press conferences Kane held after an article was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 2014. That story was about how Kane had quietly killed an investigation into Democratic state lawmakers from Philadelphia caught taking bribes from an undercover informant. The state says the negative press was part of Kane’s motive to leak the secret investigative material for the Philadelphia Daily News story that appeared three months later.

Beemer was with Kane during two press conferences in which she explained her reasons for quashing the Philadelphia lawmakers probe.

Rosenblum pointed out the discussion was about investigative material.

“You didn’t yank her off the stage and say wait, wait, stop — CHRIA?” Rosenblum asked Beemer, referring to the Criminal History Record Information Act, a state law protecting investigative information.

“I don’t think anybody could stop the AG from doing what she wanted to do,” Beemer replied.

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

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal