With tough-on-crime Lynne Abraham and pot-decriminalizer Jim Kenney both running for mayor, is Philadelphia poised to have a serious debate about the criminal justice system in 2015?
Kathleen Kane may be in a fight for her political life, but there’s still business to be done.
Her office said Tuesday it will defend new Gov. Tom Wolf from a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Senate Republicans after Wolf fired Erik Arneson, the state’s new open records chief who was given a last-second appointment by then-Gov. Tom Corbett as he left office.
“Our office is representing the Governor’s Office,” Kane spokesman Aaron Sadler told PennLive.
A new grand jury report is calling for weakening the Pennsylvania “Shield Law” that protects journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources. Why, you wonder? Surely there must be a good reason for undermining the freedom of the press, right?
The report was provided to the news media by a special prosecutor investigating allegations that Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaked material from a different grand jury to the Philadelphia Daily News. Earlier this month, the special prosecutor subpoenaed two journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer to try to uncover their sources for a report that a grand jury had recommended charges against Kane. The Inky fought back by invoking Pennsylvania’s awesome Shield Law, one of the strongest in our country.
And now the grand jury wants to blow a hole through that law, by adding a “criminal-fraud” exception for grand jury proceedings. Translation: If someone allegedly violates grand-jury secrecy rules while providing information a reporter, that reporter could be compelled to reveal their source.
— deannadurante (@deannadurante) January 21, 2015
Documents released today by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court confirm that a grand jury has recommended charges be brought against Attorney General Kathleen Kane for the leak of information from an earlier grand jury.
The documents were unsealed as part of a broader court battle involving Kane, who is challenging the authority of the special prosecutor who led the grand jury, as well as the judge who appointed the prosecutor.
“Kane’s defense team argued a Montgomery County judge had no authority to appoint a special prosecutor to run a grand jury under state law and the state constitution’s separation of powers clause prohibits the court from investigating a member of the executive branch, Kane,” The Morning Call reports. “The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the motion to quash the grand jury and unsealed the records as requested by Kane’s defense lawyers.”
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The scepter still hangs over Kathleen Kane’s head.
It’s been a couple of weeks now since the Inquirer reported that a grand jury recommended the Pennsylvania attorney general be indicted for leaking the secrets of a previous grand jury. And it’s been nearly as long since the Inquirer revealed that two of its reporters had been subpoenaed for the apparent leak of information from Kane’s grand jury.
We’re still waiting to find out if the Montgomery County District Attorney will accept or reject the grand jury’s recommendation. But there’s an obvious absurdity in this scandal, now that we’ve reached the point that a leak about a leak is being investigated.
How did we get to this point, anyway? The answer may be easier to find if we understand Pennsylvania’s grand jury process. We talked with several experts who were unconnected to the Kane case, and would not comment specifically on it — choosing instead to describe the grand jury process in general terms. (We also relied on the Pennsylvania code concerning grand juries.)
Kathleen Kane’s lawyer on Tuesday said that two reporters from the Inquirer should not be subpoenaed by investigators trying to determine who leaked information from grand jury proceedings suggesting that charges had been recommended against her.
When I was 8, I had a habit of chewing gum at school, even though it wasn’t allowed. My preferred brand was Bubble-Yum, which was rumored to be filled with spider eggs, but was the most plush, pillowy, bubble-friendly gum imaginable. I may have been picked last for every team, but I could blow better bigger bubbles than anyone I knew. It was the closest I got to athletic success.
I was sent to the principal’s office a number of times for my gum-chewing. This was in 1976 at a school founded by a progressive, idealistic group of parents who would absolutely have considered themselves in tune with the most liberal social movements, feminism among them. Yet the principal told me that the reason my affront was so grave was that chewing gum was “unladylike.” She said, “Don’t you want to be a lady, Elizabeth?”
Looks like we’re about to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
We noted last week that when the Inquirer reported that a grand jury had recommended charges against Attorney General Kathleen Kane for leaking information from an earlier grand jury case, the paper itself relied on information leaked from a grand jury. Kane’s attorney, Lanny Davis, made the same point.
So it’s probably inevitable that Inky reporters Craig R. McCoy and Angela Couloumbis have now been subpoenaed to appear before a statewide grand jury investigating who leaked that story to them.
The Inquirer, however, says it will protect its sources.
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