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December 04, 2015

Philadelphia DA reassigns three prosecutors implicated in Porngate

Prosecutors were among group exchanging raunchy emails in Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office

Amid ongoing controversy over a trove of offensive e-mails that were circulated among employees of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced on Friday the reassignment of three prosecutors who were part of a group exchanging the explicit messages.

The announcement comes after a Philadelphia City Council resolution passed on Thursday calling for Frank Fina, Mark Costanzo and Pat Blessington to be fired.

The resolution denounced "the demeaning, misogynistic, racist and homophobic emails sent on state-owned computers by prosecutors currently employed by the Philadelphia’s DA’s Office."

Philadelphia DA Seth Williams officially transferred Fina from handling public corruption cases to civil litigation, Costanzo from special investigations to appeals and Blessington from insurance fraud to the appellate division. The transfers take effect Monday, December 7.

City council had also called for the state Attorney General's office to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate the three Philadelphia prosecutors. Kathleen Kane, who has been aggressively outspoken about the "Porngate" emails during her own legal process, hired former Maryland AG Doug Gansler to lead a public corruption investigation pending an official review.

Kane, charged with unlawfully leaking secret grand jury information, urged the release of the e-mails in August after they originally surfaced during her investigation into the handling of the Jerry Sandusky case. She has claimed the emails were the motivation for the perjury, conspiracy and other criminal charges filed against her.

Kane's alleged illegal actions began after the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article in March 2014 revealing that she had secretly shut down a taped undercover sting investigation that captured Democratic officials from Philadelphia pocketing cash. Kane blamed Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor in that case, for the Inquirer story and decided to get payback by leaking documents to The Philadelphia Daily News.

In September, Seth Williams ordered sensitivity training for Fina, Costanzo and Blessington, but declined to discipline them. Williams said he assembled a team to review the e-mails and determined at the time that none of them originated from the three employees in his office. The sensitivity training occurred more than two months later during a day-long session on November 20.

Several groups, including the National Organization for Women, have criticized Williams for his handling of the Porngate emails, demanding the removal of the three employees in an open letter to the District Attorney.

Cameron Kline, spokesperson for Williams, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.