Pennsylvania Attorney General Shifts Blame for Botched Bribery Investigation to Previous Administration, Lawyers Up For Possible Lawsuit Against Newspaper


lawyered up
Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Philadelphia Inquirer's report on an investigation into local Philadelphia politicians apparently caught on tape taking bribes apparently shut down by Pennsylvania's attorney general, Kathleen Kane (D). An assistant press secretary for Kane wrote to me in an effort, he said, to make sure I had all the facts, whether or not I agreed with the attorney general. The press secretary summarized the office's case on the case:

The investigation was dormant and basically left for dead when Attorney General Kane took office. I have attached a timeline of the investigation's recording for your reference. [PDF] Just 45 days before her inauguration, prosecutors forgave the only informant of 2,000 felony charges related to defrauding taxpayer funded programs to feed low-income children and seniors. This deal destroyed the informant being compelled to testify. A Republican district attorney agreed with this determination.

As a follow up, I asked why prosecutors forgave the informant, whether there would be an investigation into that or any other aspect of the case, whether the attorney general would suspend or review any other cases built around confidential informants trawling for crimes, and whether the attorney general's office would release the tapes made by the informant of the alleged bribe-taking if they are no longer useful as evidence. The press officer did not respond to my questions as of the time of this blog post.

A op-ed also listed a litany of issues with the attorney general's defense of her decision to drop the case, including:

She says crimes were committed but there's "nothing we can do to salvage this case."

She says the No. 1 reason is the "shot" credibility of informant Tyron B. Ali, because the state forgave 2,000-plus charges against him filed in 2009 in connection with a scam to defraud a low-income food program.

But Ali audiotaped those taking money or gifts. Why not let a jury hear the tapes, compromised informant/witness or not; or release the tapes to the public?

Kane says the tapes can't be released because they're "evidence."

But if there's "nothing we can do to salvage" the case, what are they evidence for?

She says federal prosecutors wouldn't take the case. But the Inky
[the Philadelphia Inquirer] reported yesterday that the FBI in Philly looked at the case and made no judgment on whether it could be prosecuted, and that the U.S. attorney in Philly declined comment on the case.

Kane also said she'd "consider and push for" an investigation by the State Ethics Commission, which requires public officials to report gifts. Failure to do so can lead to fines and/or prison terms.

But since Kane killed the sting case last year, one wonders why she didn't seek such an investigation then.

Since then, Kane has hired a lawyer for a possible defamation suit against the Philadelphia Inquirer, which broke the story. In fact, she met with editors and reporters from the Inquirer Thursday flanked by two lawyers, and refused to speak for herself. The lawyers say they will investigate the prosecutors involved in the bribery case, and allege the Inquirer's sources, which the newspaper has not disclosed, used the paper as a "weapon" to attack Kane.