With certainty growing that Attorney General Kathleen Kane will face criminal charges for her alleged role in leaking secret grand jury information to a newspaper, it’s difficult to see how she can keep the distraction from hampering her ability to run an important office.
Based on information from sources, The Inquirer reported Thursday that a special prosecutor and grand jury looking into the case concluded that there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing by Kane to charge her criminally, most likely with perjury and contempt of court.
At issue is how grand jury testimony from a 2009 investigation of Philadelphia NAACP leader J. Whyatt Mondesire was obtained by the Philadelphia Daily News. Kane has admitted her office gave the paper some information about the investigation of misspent NAACP funds, but not grand jury testimony.
Some Kane allies have suggested that her staff erroneously provided prohibited information to the newspaper. The Daily News, citing sources, reported Friday that the illegal leaks of information might have been engineered by Kane’s enemies to embarrass her. But she disagreed with that speculation.
Whether by error or calculation, the release of grand jury information further calls into question Kane’s ability to serve as the state’s top law enforcement officer. The Democratic former assistant district attorney for Lackawanna County had never served in a similar executive capacity, but her tenacity during her 2012 campaign convinced voters, and this Editorial Board, that she could do the job. Unfortunately, her tenure has been riddled with missteps.
Most significant was her decision to drop a bribery investigation begun under her predecessor, Gov. Corbett. Kane asserted that the case wasn’t prosecutable. But using the same evidence, including an informant’s surreptitious recordings, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has charged two legislators and obtained a guilty plea from a former Traffic Court judge.
The statewide grand jury investigating the leak, sitting in Norristown, has reportedly turned over its findings to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who must decide whether to charge Kane. If the attorney general is charged, she should step down so that vital office can perform without the distraction of her prosecution.