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January 08, 2015

Grand jury urges charges against Pennsylvania attorney general

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A grand jury has recommended criminal charges against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who is accused of leaking information to a newspaper in an effort to embarrass political enemies, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Thursday.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman will decide whether to affirm the grand jury finding and charge Kane, 48, sources close to the case told the Inquirer.

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Lanny Davis, a Washington, D.C., lawyer hired to represent Kane in the investigation, said he could not confirm the report but the attorney general, the first Democrat elected to the office in the state's history, was not guilty of the allegations.

“The attorney general has done nothing wrong or illegal and, to my knowledge, there is no credible evidence that she has,” Davis said in his statement.

He said the disclosure of the grand jury recommendation might itself constitute a legal violation.

Ferman could not be reached for comment.

Kane has been under investigation since June after allegations surfaced that her office leaked grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News for a story that suggested the office of her Republican predecessor fumbled an important investigation.

The paper wrote a story saying Frank Fina, formerly the top public corruption investigator for the attorney general’s office, mishandled a 2009 probe involving the Philadelphia branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Kane kept a campaign promise to vigorously investigate how her predecessors, including now-Governor Tom Corbett, handled the investigation of Jerry Sandusky in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.

She also criticized the handling of a corruption investigation initiated by Fina of alleged bribes taken by two black Democratic members of the state legislature. Kane said racism and poor procedures tinged the probe.

Ronald Castille, who retired at year’s end as chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, approved the appointment of a special prosecutor to pursue the grand jury investigation of Kane.

If convicted of criminal charges, state law would require Kane to resign. Democratic Governor–elect Tom Wolf, who takes office Jan. 20, would then decide on a replacement.

His spokesman could not be reached for comment.

(Reporting by David DeKok; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Eric Beech)