State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Judge unseals court documents in legislative sting case

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 10, 2014 9:33 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

A Dauphin County judge lifted the seal Thursday afternoon on documents related to an investigation that caught at least five public officials on tape accepting money or gifts from an undercover informant.

The motion to unseal the trove of papers was filed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper and granted by Common Pleas Court Judge Todd Hoover.

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane preempted questions based on the records by quickly holding a press conference, less than half an hour after the documents were made available (audio here).

She began her statements by saying she welcomed greater transparency, and ended by saying that she can't keep answering questions about a case she deemed too flawed to result in criminal charges. "I really do need to get back to work," Kane said.

She's fending off criticism that she abandoned the investigation, from unnamed sources as well as Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who now employs Frank Fina, the lead prosecutor on the case.

In the session with reporters that lasted over an hour, Kane put the onus on Fina to show the case should result in criminal charges.

"All he does is comment, or the anonymous source, or whatever he does -- hide in the shadows and throw things out there about me as a prosecutor. That's all he does," Kane said. "Step up to the plate, if he thinks it's a great case. You have concurrent jurisdiction, take the case."

Kane also dismissed Williams' defense of the investigation.

"His opinion, that is factually incorrect and baseless and unsolicited, means nothing to me. I am the chief law enforcement officer of this commonwealth," she said. "We reviewed this case and according to our standards of prosecution, according to our duty, according to the law, and according to our high professional morals and ethics, we said we could not prosecute this case and it should not be prosecuted."

Kane has said she is not bringing charges against any officials implicated in the case, in part, because the investigation targeted black officials without any reason to think they were doing anything illegal. But she said Thursday the documents revealed won't reflect statements about racial targeting. That conclusion, Kane said, is based on claims by a state investigator and a federal agent that they were told as much by the confidential informant.

"That is credible evidence. Is it enough for us to say... we're going to bring civil rights charges? Who knows. That wasn't what our duty was," Kane said. "Our duty was, is to look at this case and all the pieces of evidence and see how it would play out in a court of law."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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