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Watchdogs ask AG Shapiro to recuse himself from inquiry

Josh Shapiro, speaks to the crowd after being sworn in as Pennsylvania’s attorney general on Jan. 17 at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Shortly after being sworn in, Shapiro was handed a request by a watchdog group to investigate the relationship between the Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, convicted and resigned Attorney General Kathleen Kane and her successor, Bruce Castor.
Josh Shapiro, speaks to the crowd after being sworn in as Pennsylvania’s attorney general on Jan. 17 at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Shortly after being sworn in, Shapiro was handed a request by a watchdog group to investigate the relationship between the Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, convicted and resigned Attorney General Kathleen Kane and her successor, Bruce Castor. AP

First Josh Shapiro was asked to investigate. Now he’s being asked not to.

Last week, Gene Stilp, of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United, and Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capital, want him to take a look at the overlapping threads linking Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, convicted and resigned Attorney General Kathleen Kane, and Kane’s successor and Parks Miller’s attorney Bruce Castor.

On Monday, they submitted another request, asking Shapiro, the newly installed AG, to “personally and professionally recuse (himself)” and have someone else within the OAG do the investigating.

“We have noted in the past few days that your connections with Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and attorney Bruce Castor are very numerous and would certainly disqualify you as a participant in any decision making role related to this Complaint and Request for an Investigation,” they wrote.

Shapiro came to the OAG after a stint as Montgomery County commissioner. Castor also served on the same board of commissioners with him.

The West Chester-based Daily Local News detailed their relationship in a story about Castor’s last meeting in 2015, when he was given gifts including the burgundy leather chair from his office.

‘“Bruce loves this chair,” (Shapiro) said. “And he loves sitting in this chair with his feet up on the desk, pontificating.”’

Castor denied that the two have any compromising relationship.

“Josh and I worked well as commissioners but we were bitter adversaries in the campaign,” he said.

He also dismissed suggestions that his relationships between him, Kane and Parks Miller were questionable. According to Castor, Kane and Parks Miller met only once, at the swearing-in ceremony where all DAs were invited, and he met Kane just once before working for her in 2016 — at a 2013 association meeting.

“With the 2015 grand jury, there was no conversation,” he said.

Castor represents Parks Miller, a role he stepped into in 2015 after allegations of forgery were raised at a Centre County commissioners meeting. The OAG took the case, presenting it to an investigating grand jury, which accepted the handwriting analysis of two experts, Khody Detwiler and Gus Lesnevich, who work together in a forensic document laboratory, who determined the signature to be that of Judge Pamela Ruest. The grand jury did not recommend charges in the case.

The allegations, however, prompted Parks Miller’s lawsuit against the county, the judge, the paralegal who testified against her and several defense attorneys, including Bernard Cantorna who is now running for DA.

Parks Miller and Castor have both called Stilp and Epstein’s request politically motivated.

“Election time is called ‘the silly season’ for a reason. People will say absolutely anything,” Castor said. “Since there is no connection or conspiracy, my former comment (with out loud laughter) still stands: ‘who cares?’ ”

Parks Miller took issue with both requests.

“I think I should write a request to AG Shapiro asking him to ‘investigate’ all these people writing requests for silly investigations,” she said. “I will also ask him to get me a seat on the next space shuttle and visit my grandmother on her birthday! Then I’ll mail it to him. Who cares what someone puts on sheet of paper and sends in the mail to him? It is not news or a legitimate request just because it is put down on paper and sent to him.”

Cantorna denies any involvement.

“I have nothing to do with any of these allegations,” he said. “They originally stemmed from allegations made by (Parks Miller’s) former employee, and I have nothing to do with any investigation in Harrisburg.”

The OAG was contacted for comment when each of the two requests was submitted. As of press time, there has been no response.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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