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Kane Found Guilty, Will Remain Free Pending Sentencing

August 16, 2016 GMT

Norristown — The state’s top law enforcement officer is now a convicted felon.

Jurors in state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s trial in Montgomery County Court deliberated for about 4½ hours Monday before finding her guilty of all charges: two counts each of perjury, false swearing, obstructing the administration of law and conspiracy, and one count of official oppression.

After prosecutors concluded their case Friday, Ms. Kane opted not to testify and did not call any witnesses on her behalf. Her attorneys argued prosecutors had not presented sufficient evidence to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury of six men and six women disagreed. They began deliberating at 4 p.m. and announced they had reached a verdict at 8:25 p.m.

Speaking after the verdict, Ms. Kane’s lead defense attorney, Gerald Shargel, said the verdict was a “crushing” blow. He vowed that Ms. Kane will appeal, indicating she will argue that pre-trial rulings severely hampered her case.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the verdict was a “sad day” for Pennsylvanians. He and his co-prosecutor, Michelle Henry from the Bucks County district attorney’s office, said they believed the evidence was overwhelming.

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Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy allowed Ms. Kane to remain free on bail pending sentencing, which will be held in about 90 days after a pre-sentence investigation and psychological exam are completed.

Judge Demchick-Alloy sternly warned Ms. Kane not to retaliate against any witnesses. If she does, the judge said, she will immediately revoke Ms. Kane’s bail and send her to jail. The judge also ordered her to turn over her passport.

It’s not clear whether Ms. Kane will resign from office. Mr. Shargel said that issue is something that will be addressed in the next few days. Mr. Steele said by law Ms. Kane must resign once her conviction is final. That does not occur until she is sentenced.

Ms. Kane, 50, of Waverly Twp., is a Scranton native who in 2012 became the first Democrat and first female to be elected attorney general. She was accused of leaking grand jury documents relating to the 2009 case involving J. Whyatt Mondesire to the Philadelphia Daily News, which ran a story on June 6, 2014, and of lying to a separate grand jury that investigated the leak.

The prosecution said Ms. Kane did so to retaliate against Frank Fina, a former prosecutor in her office whom she blamed for leaking information about her decision not to charge several Philadelphia legislators accused of taking bribes.

Ms. Kane showed no reaction as the jury read its verdict on each of the nine counts for which she was convicted. She was originally charged with 12 counts, but Mr. Steele said the prosecution decided to consolidate some of the counts before the case went to the jury.

The perjury counts are third-degree felonies; each carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, but it is unlikely Ms. Kane will face that much time. The maximum sentence is rarely imposed unless a defendant has an extensive prior record.

In his roughly two-hour closing argument, Mr. Steele implored jurors to use common sense.

“We submit to you we have proven this case on each and every charge not beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond all doubt,” he said.

He carefully laid out the prosecution’s case that was built upon testimony of key witnesses — political consultant Joshua Morrow and Adrian King, Ms. Kane’s former first deputy, who admitted they took part in the leak.

There was physical evidence as well, he said, including text messages, emails and phone calls between Ms. Kane and Mr. Morrow.

Defense attorney Seth Farber attacked Mr. Morrow’s and Mr. King’s credibility in a 90-minute closing argument. He also questioned the prosecution’s interpretations of text messages between Ms. Kane and Mr. Morrow.

“These are two witnesses who will say whatever they need in order to protect themselves,” Mr. Farber said of Mr. Morrow and Mr. King. “They are pointing the finger at each other. ... You would not even buy a used car from either one of them.”

Mr. Steele began his closing with a comment Ms. Kane made in an email she sent shortly after a March 16, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer story on the legislator case: “This is war.”

Mr. Morrow, who had worked on Ms. Kane’s campaign for attorney general, was a “good soldier” in that war, agreeing to act as the source for a leak of the grand jury documents on the Mondesire case, which Mr. Fina had headed.

As with any war, Mr. Steele said, there were casualties. Here the victim was Mr. Mondesire, who was never charged with any crime. The leak ruined his reputation.

Mr. Steele said Mr. Morrow provided strong evidence against Ms. Kane that was corroborated by text messages the pair exchanged in the weeks prior to and after the Inquirer story ran.

On May 7, 2014, several days after the documents were delivered to the Philadelphia Daily News, Mr. Morrow texted Ms. Kane: “What is that saying about revenge?”

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“Best served cold,” she replied.

Mr. Steele said Mr. Morrow’s testimony that Ms. Kane knew the documents were grand jury material was further corroborated by a tape of a phone call between Mr. Morrow and a friend, John Lisko, that was secretly recorded by the FBI. Agents had tapped Mr. Lisko’s phone as part of an unrelated corruption probe. Neither Mr. Morrow nor Ms. Lisko knew the call was being recorded.

In the call, which was made the night Mr. Morrow picked up the documents, Mr. Morrow said Ms. Kane called him and said, “Adrian has documents for you to leak out ... about, like, Frank Fina killing a Jerry Mondesire investigation.”

The prosecutor said Ms. Kane’s behavior was also telling.

He noted Mr. Morrow’s testimony of how one of Ms. Kane’s aides — former Dumore police chief Patrick Reese — checked to see if he was wearing a wire when he went to meet Ms. Kane for lunch in August 2014. Mr. Morrow testified they had learned a grand jury was investigating the leak and met to concoct a story to shield her involvement in the leak and blame Mr. King.

“You meet with a public official and they see if you are wearing a wire? What are you worried about?” Mr. Steele asked. “If there is a grand jury investigation going on and you want to get your story straight, that would be a good one not to have recorded.”

Mr. Farber, Ms. Kane’s defense attorney, argued the evidence was not as iron clad as Mr. Steele portrayed it. The prosecution had “cherry picked” which text messages to show jurors. Even so, their interpretation of the text messages — including the “revenge” text — was wrong.

“Unfortunately for the commonwealth, those aren’t Kathleen Kane’s words ... They were Josh Morrow’s words,” Mr. Farber said.

Mr. Farber said Ms. Kane was “no fan” of Frank Fina, but it was Mr. Morrow who was obsessed with getting revenge against him.

He was angry because the Inquirer story regarding the legislators also contained negative information about him, he said.

“The commonwealth suggested to you Kathleen Kane wanted to go to war against Frank Fina. When you look at the actual evidence, it shows something else,” Farber said.

Contact the writer:

tbesecker@timesshamrock.com,

@tmbeseckerTT on Twitter