RODERICK RANDOM: If Only Kane Had Rested A Pretty Solid Case ...
First of all, get this straight.
Former state Attorney General Kathleen Granahan Kane got what she deserved.
Kane, a Democrat, sought revenge on the attorney general’s office former chief prosecutor, Frank Fina. She blamed him for a March 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer story that said she wrongly shut down a corruption investigation into Democratic Philadelphia state legislators.
Kane leaked secret grand jury information about a corruption case Fina shut down years earlier, then she lied about ordering the leak when asked about it in front of another grand jury.
A jury of her peers convicted Kane, who didn’t offer a defense at her trial. She appealed to the state Supreme Court and lost.
She started a 10- to 23-month jail sentence Nov. 29 at the Montgomery County prison.
But a court filing this week hints that perhaps the former attorney general had a good reason for shutting down the case whose revelation triggered her anger and downfall.
Let’s be clear here. The filing outlines why Kane might have had a good reason for shutting down the case, not for seeking revenge.
The filing is state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown’s appeal of her conviction Oct. 31 for taking $4,000 in bribes and violating state ethics laws. She was one of the people targeted in the corruption case Kane called off. Four former state representatives besides Brown and a former Philly traffic court judge all pleaded guilty after Kane refused to prosecute and Philly District Attorney Seth Williams picked up the case.
To help, Williams hired Fina, who originated the case in the attorney general’s office. All except the judge received probation, including Brown, who resigned this week. Brown’s case wound up being transferred to Dauphin County.
Bear with us, because this requires some explanation, but keep in mind Fina’s role here.
Brown’s appeal says she was an innocent House member entrapped through severe pressure, flirting and other means by Tyron B. Ali, a confidential informant working on Fina’s behalf who faced more than 2,000 counts of stealing $430,000 from programs meant to benefit children and senior citizens. As part of agreeing to serve as an informant, all the charges against him were dropped.
Thomas regularly made no recordings and wrote no memos about meetings between him and Ali, a violation of attorney general’s office protocols for tracking an informant’s worthiness. He also testified he didn’t know about Ali’s alleged crimes.
Her lawyers make the case that Brown was an honest woman before Ali started pressuring her.
At one point, Ali offered Brown 10 percent of the money she hoped to raise at one fundraiser, in cash, according to her appeal.
She asked him to bring a check. Ali told her she could report the money in her campaign finance report or not because of the state’s lax enforcement, according to the appeal.
“Here’s my deal,” Brown said. “I’m being very cautious ... And I’ve been by-the-book all the way up to now ... it’s just not worth it,” Brown is quoted as saying in the appeal’s reference to a recording.
Ali kept pressuring her and eventually she took money, she apologetically told the grand jury.
Her lawyers, from Myers, Brier & Kelly in Scranton, argue that shows she was entrapped. Courts have ruled police can’t entrap someone.
Now, remember this is all going on under the nose of Fina, who, the appeal says, demonstrated bias against blacks and “sent racially charged and misogynistic emails to other members of the (attorney general’s office) before and during the criminal investigation of Ms. Lowery Brown.”
The appeal refers to a Jan. 21, 2009, email Fina sent to someone that shows a picture of a white man “pushing two black men as the white man attempts to carry a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.” In another picture in the same email, a black man looks shocked as someone else catches a bucket of Kentucky Friend Chicken,” the appeal says.
In an unrelated lawsuit, Fina described some of his emails as “offensive, irreverent and in bad taste,” but “nothing illegal.”
Ali worried to an FBI agent that two state attorney general’s office agents had him going exclusively after members of the House Black Democratic Caucus. The agent, Richard J. Haag, testified that Ali told him that.
“(Ali) was reprimanded for contacting the Republicans and told he was not to take any initiative in contacting Republicans in the future,” Haag wrote in a memo.
The appeal also argues prosecutors purposely excluded all minority jurors from the jury and Brown never took the money for a specific action.
Yeah, OK, but we’re mostly interested in why Kane stuck with defending her decision against prosecuting Brown and the others and stopped there.
It sure looks like she could have.
As he sentenced Brown, Dauphin County Judge Scott Evans showed his concerns about the case. He said it included “racial overtones” and noted Kane and, originally, the Dauphin County district attorney, refused to prosecute it.
“There are so many aspects of this investigation that are troubling, to say the least,” Evans said, the Inquirer reported.
When the Inquirer first wrote the story about Kane shutting down the investigation, Kane made many of the same points Brown’s defense lawyers make in her appeal — how dropping all the charges against Ali undermined his credibility, the poor tracking of Ali’s behavior as an informant, the racial tinge to the case, the targeting of black legislators, the lack of a quid pro quo for the bribe money, etc.
Kane’s statement back then called them “extremely alarming flaws.” Now a judge agrees with Kane, even sentencing Brown to just 23 months of probation.
If Kane had just stuck to her original argument, if she never coordinated the leak of secret grand jury information about the case Fina shut down, if she didn’t lie about ordering the leak, her decision to drop the Philly corruption case might have blown over.
Instead, Kane declared war.
Some of her supporters may view her as a unfairly jailed prisoner of the war she lost, but whatever you believe, Kane won’t be home for Christmas because of what she did.
No one entrapped her.
BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune’s politics reporter, writes Random Notes.