Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Reaction to Kane Sentencing was Swift

Before the ink was even dry on the sentencing sheet for former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, comments came flooding in from those currently in charge of the office and those running in the upcoming election to succeed her.
Kathleen Kane/Photo from Mercury Video by Carl Hessler Jr.

“Today is another sad day for the Commonwealth and its citizens. The Office of Attorney General is moving forward with steps to restore the public’s confidence in the work that we do and the way that we do it,” said Bruce R. Beemer, Kane’s former top deputy who was appointed to run the office after Kane’s perjury conviction and resignation in August. “The men and women of the OAG are dedicated public servants who do their jobs with integrity on a daily basis. That is what the public expects and deserves.”

Beemer, who was Kane’s chief of the criminal prosecution section, testified for prosecutors against Kane during her August trial.

Beemer testified at trial that Kane “was not happy” when she read a March 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer article that was “critical” of her. Prosecutors alleged that’s when Kane decided to retaliate against a former agent, who she blamed for the negative publicity, by orchestrating the release to a reporter of secret information regarding a 2009 grand jury investigation that the agent supervised and then didn’t pursue charges.

A news article with the secret information was published in June 2014.

“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” Beemer testified in August about seeing the article, adding it caused him to suspect a leak in the attorney general’s office. “I viewed it as quite problematic.”

Kane, 50, was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail and 8 years of probation on perjury and abuse of power charges. She remains free on bail while appealing her conviction.

The two candidates running in the Nov. 8 election to replace Kane also issued statements after her sentencing.

Joshua Shapiro/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
“In August, a jury of her peers determined Kathleen Kane’s guilt and today the court sentenced her to a prison term, showing that no one is above the law,” said Josh Shapiro, the Democrat for attorney general in the Nov. 8 election. “As the people’s attorney general, I’ll lead with integrity as I have throughout my career in public service and always protect the rights, safety and health of each and every Pennsylvanian. I will enforce the law without the fear or favor and work tirelessly to heal the breach of trust that exists in our justice system.”

Republican attorney general candidate John Rafferty said this:

“Today marks another sad chapter for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Office of Attorney General. This entire episode is a stark reminder of the damages of putting an individual in the Office of Attorney General who lacks the requisite experience for the office and is driven more by blind political ambition than doing what’s in the best interests of our Commonwealth. That is why I have pledged to only serve as our next attorney general and not run for higher office. My opponent refuses to take this pledge. As our next attorney general, I will restore integrity and public confidence to the office and refocus our efforts on protecting the people of Pennsylvania.”

Whoever wins the election will have their work cut out for them. Two of Kane’s former coworkers testified Monday that the criminal investigation of their leader hurt the agency and created a demoralizing atmosphere. 

“It was like a poisonous cloud over every corner of the office. The climate in there had become intolerable,” said Clarke Madden, a former deputy attorney general in the criminal law division, adding all employees of the agency were affected by the investigation and Kane's reaction to it. “It was like dancing on a trap door.”

Erik Olsen, currently a chief deputy attorney general who’s had a 30-year legal career, said, “Personally, this has been the worst three years of my professional career.”

Olsen testified he initially was “thrilled” when Kane was elected and attended her inauguration in 2012. Olsen believed Kane would be a good addition to an office he believed in the past had a “misogynistic” atmosphere.

But Olsen said things soon changed and he saw Kane becoming more “isolated.”

“Through a pattern of systematic firings and Nixonian espionage, she created a terror zone in this office,” Olsen testified.

Kane's former coworkers said the scandal hurt the reputation of the state office and agents carried it on their backs into every courtroom in the state. Other law enforcement agencies didn’t want to work with the attorney general’s office and victims didn’t trust the agency, they said.

 “We’re trying to repair relationships with law enforcement. It’s been a difficult two years,” Olsen said.

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