Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Look Back: Observations From Kane Trial

Last month, citizens statewide were glued to the trial of embattled Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Granahan Kane as it played out in Montgomery County Court. It certainly was one to remember.

A lot has been written about the trial and verdict. But here are a few more observations from Mr. Everybody’s Business.

During the trial, Kane, 50, the first woman and first Democrat to be elected to the office, was supported daily by various relatives and friends, including her twin sister, Ellen Granahan, who crowded into the first pew on the defense side of the courtroom. Those supporters, many of whom Kane hugged and kissed on the cheek when she entered the courtroom, stayed by her side until the closing arguments of the lawyers were completed.
Kathleen Kane/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

But when the verdict came, it was only Kane’s sister who sat alone in that front row, the only one there to support Kane as she received the devastating news – a conviction of all nine charges, including perjury and obstruction.

I thought it must be a very lonely moment for the twin sisters but neither one showed any emotion.

As the verdict was announced, Kane remained seated at the defense table. Usually, defendants are asked to rise and face the jury when learning their fate. No one explained why Kane was permitted to remain seated but it was an unusual moment.

Another odd moment came when just after the last “GUILTY” verdict was announced Bruce L. Castor Jr., a Lower Salford Republican who served as district attorney from 2000 to 2008 and then as a county commissioner from 2008 to 2016, entered the courtroom and sat in the gallery.

Castor, who was appointed by Kane in March to be her state solicitor general, essentially second-in-command, had not attended the trial up until that point. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Castor finally got to speak to Kane privately after the verdict.

Bruce L. Castor Jr./Submitted Photo
To add to the strangeness is the history. During last fall’s election, Castor ran an unsuccessful campaign to return as county district attorney and was defeated by Democrat Kevin R. Steele, who was installed as district attorney in January, and who was the lead prosecutor in the case against Kane.

Two days after she was convicted, Kane resigned and Castor took over as acting attorney general. But Castor’s tenure was short-lived as newly installed Attorney General Bruce Beemer announced this week that Castor’s last day as solicitor general will be Sept. 9.

The trial played out in the ceremonial courtroom at the courthouse. It’s the courtroom where portraits of all the county judges decorate the walls. I observed Kane scanning some of the portraits during breaks in the trial. One couldn’t help but feel the eyes of the entire bench watching this trial play out, one where the state’s top law enforcer was accused of lying in a court of law.
Portrait Wall in Courtroom A

Even more ironic was that on one wall, to the right of Kane, was the portrait of Judge William R. Carpenter, who was the supervising judge of the grand jury that investigated Kane’s leaks in 2014, the investigation that led to her arrest. 
Portrait of Judge William R. Carpenter

Eerily, it was as if Carpenter was looking over Kane’s right shoulder throughout the trial. I wonder if Kane felt his presence.

During the weeklong trial, Kane, fashionably dressed, never tried to duck members of the press who were camped outside the courthouse, behind crowd control fences lining a courthouse walkway. Each day Kane arrived and left via that walkway and paraded past reporters confidently smiling at their cameras and greeting them with waves and a friendly ‘Hello.”
Kathleen Kane/Photo from video by Carl Hessler Jr.

But after her conviction something changed. Kane didn’t leave the courthouse via that walkway and was permitted to leave, under the cover of darkness, through a side courthouse door where no reporters were gathered. Before anyone figured it out, Kane was inside a black SUV being whisked away by her security team. One has to wonder if Kane’s security team managed to obtain special treatment for “The General.”

There was a lot of media from all over the state covering the trial and satellite trucks parked outside the courthouse. One courthouse visitor who got on an elevator with me saw my press badge and said, “What floor is the circus on?” I laughed, knowing exactly to what he was referring, and told him it was the third floor.

“He replied, “Good, I’m going to avoid that one.” He got off on the second floor.

Note to future courthouse visitors: I suspect the media circus will be back in town on Oct. 24 when Kane faces Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy at a sentencing hearing to learn her fate.

Stay tuned.

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