State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Philly DA says sting case remains with attorney general

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 21, 2014 4:21 AM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

It's been more than a week since state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said she would transfer a lightning rod of an investigation to the Philadelphia district attorney's office. There's no consensus among defense lawyers as to whether the case could result in successful prosecutions at this point.

Kane has said the sting that caught eight public officials on tape accepting money or gifts was flawed, and she would gladly refer the case to the Philadelphia district attorney, who now employs the lead prosecutor on the investigation. But before that, Kane said the undercover informant involved, Tyron Ali, had thousands of charges against him dropped in a "deal of the century" with prosecutors.

Matt Mangino, a defense lawyer and former Lawrence County district attorney, says that'll make it tough to bring charges against the public officials involved.

"The defense is going to make the confidential informant the key element to this case," said Mangino. "I don't know how you could possibly prosecute it when there's been public discussion about the credibility of your star witness."

But Bill Costopoulos, who has defended several public officials facing corruption charges, says the star witness will be the audio tapes. In case documents, Ali's lawyer claimed his client recorded eight state lawmakers taking money in exchange for some action.

"This case will be driven by what's on those tapes," Costopoulos said.

Kane's office wrote to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on April 9 to offer a transfer of the case. A spokeswoman said Williams responded the same day and hasn't heard anything since.

On April 10, Kane held a press conference after a Dauphin County judge unsealed documents related to the investigation. During the session, she implored Williams to take over the prosecution, instead of casting aspersions on her office for not bringing charges.

"Step up to the plate, if he thinks it's a great case," Kane said. "You have concurrent jurisdiction. Take the case."

Tasha Jamerson, Williams' spokeswoman, said any actual transfer will require documentation the DA's office has not received. "You have to put it in written form that you would like them to take over the case," said Jamerson. "It's not just, 'Hey, if you want the case, you can take it.' That's not the way it's done."

The state AG's office declined to comment.

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