Lots of developments over the weekend in the political fallout from revelations that Attorney General Kathleen Kane abandoned a sting operation that caught Philly Democrats taking undisclosed cash. The Inquirer printed two new stories expanding our knowledge of the details of the operation without offering much in the way of additional news — the same Democrats still caught on tape taking the same money, only at a granular level. Frank Fina, a Philadelphia prosecutor who started the sting operation while in the A.G.’s office, wrote an Inky op ed challenging Kane’s decisions. So did Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. Kane offered her own op ed —but not in the Inquirer, which she may sue: She went to the Patriot-News instead.
Following a thorough review, there are several reasons why we could not revive the case:
The investigation was dormant and left for dead long before I took office. More than 90 percent of the recordings took place 18 months before I took office. I was the fourth Attorney General not to prosecute this case.
Two individuals reported separately to law enforcement the investigation’s purposeful focus on minorities — more evidence than we have in many sexual assault cases. Statistical evidence substantiates an overwhelming focus on African-American targets. Of the 113 recordings, 95.5 percent were of African-American targets.
Only 1.3 percent involved Caucasians. Defense attorneys would have had a field-day with this disparity in front of a jury.
Many traditional and necessary law enforcement tactics were not used to build a prosecutable case, such as: evidence of predication for those targeted so that individuals were not unfairly entrapped, evidence-corroborated recordings, subpoenas, sworn statements and using a grand jury to substantiate findings.
I will start with the explosive charges of racism Kane has bandied about. As the first, and only, elected African American prosecutor in Pennsylvania, I am offended. I have seen racism. I know what it looks like. This isn’t it.
Let me tell you first about the chief investigator in the case, who has been accused by Kane of taking orders to “target” black officeholders and ignore white ones. Like me, he is a black man. He works in my office now.
He has absolutely, unequivocally denied he was asked to, or agreed to, engage in such reprehensible conduct. He says he did what he has always done as a law enforcement officer: follow the evidence where it led. I have looked at his record, and I have looked in his eyes. I believe he is telling the truth.
What is the evidence to the contrary? The attorney general has said, repeatedly, that she has two witnesses to whom my investigator supposedly confessed this alleged racial bias. Really? Who are they? Why hasn’t she identified them? Let us look into their eyes.
I have been a lawyer for 22 years, and a public servant for almost all of that time. I have not retained an attorney to advise me to speak, or to remain silent. I am an attorney. My colleagues and I conducted our investigation honestly, ably, and with integrity. I am willing to sit down at the same table with Kane, across from Inquirer reporters and other members of the media, where we can each respond to any questions that are posed about the investigation. I have no objection to the televising of this conversation.
Four Democratic gubernatorial candidates at a Philadelphia forum declined Sunday to say whether they agreed with Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s decision not to prosecute five public officials caught on tape allegedly accepting money or gifts.
All four candidates – state Treasurer Rob McCord, former state auditor general Jack Wagner, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Kathleen McGinty, former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection – said they supported campaign-finance reform, including an outright gift ban.
More to come, we’re sure