Massive Lawsuit Filed Against AG Kathleen Kane, Daily News
A group of former prosecutors involved in the Pennsylvania porngate scandal have sued Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane, Philadelphia Media Network — as well as one of its newspapers, the Daily News — and Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Chris Brennan in federal court.
The prosecutors, who include Frank Fina, say Kane retaliated against them for “exposing” her alleged lawbreaking. They accuse her of leaking grand jury information and defaming several of the plaintiffs by accusing them on CNN of viewing child pornography, among other things.
“Upon assuming office,” the lawsuit reads, “Defendant Kane has misused the power of her office, and its publicly funded resources, for the purpose of silencing her critics through a pattern of intimidation, attempted blackmail, and vindictive retaliation against those persons who have lawfully exposed Defendant Kane’s falsehoods, unlawful activities, and violations of her oath of office.”
The plaintiffs are Frank Noonan, Rick Sheetz, Randy Feathers, Fina and Marc Costanzo. Noonan was the Pennsylvania AG’s chief of criminal investigations and, later, state police commissioner. Sheetz was a career prosecutor who worked under Tom Corbett. Feathers was a longtime narcotics investigator who most recently was a member of the state’s parole board.
Fina and Costanzo are longtime state prosecutors who now work in Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams‘ office. Today, the women on City Council called for Williams to fire Fina, Costanzo and another former Corbett prosecutor who isn’t part of this suit (Patrick Blessington).
The plaintiffs allege Kane declared “war” on them after they spoke out about her investigation into the Tom Corbett administration’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. The suit says Fina intervened to prevent the investigation from being one-sided, which caused Kane to retaliate. “Fina’s actions effectively curtailed Kane’s ability to conduct the type of one-sided political investigation of the Sandusky Investigation she had originally intended,” the suit reads.
It also accuses Kane of defamation regarding an abandoned sting case that was later picked up by Philly DA Williams: “Kane’s accusation that the investigation was driven by racist motives (all of the elected officials who accepted cash were African-American) was wholly fabricated by Kane and her staff, and was published to the media intentionally in an effort to damage the reputation of Fina, Costanzo and others involved in this investigation.” She’s also accused of leaking grand jury documents, lying about the Sandusky case timeline on CNN and calls the release of pornographic emails “retaliatory.”
Kane’s spokesman said she will fight the suit. She “has not yet had an opportunity to review the suit, but will certainly defend herself vigorously against any such claims,” Chuck Ardo told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The lawsuit also accuses Kane of leaking information to the Daily News, saying the newspaper “abetted Kane’s unconstitutional and defamatory actions knowingly, and/or in reckless disregard for the truth.” Only Fina and Costanzo are suing on that count of the lawsuit, which stems from an article Brennan wrote in June 2014 about Kane’s review of a grand jury investigation into longtime NAACP Philadelphia head J. Wyatt Mondesire. Mondesire died in October at the age of 65.
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General agent Michael Miletto was also sued. The suit, filed by Philadelphia lawyer Mark Tanner, seeks punitive damages, an injunction against Kane and a public apology.
A copy of the lawsuit is below.
The headline and first paragraph of this story have been updated to clarify that the Inquirer as an institution is not a defendant in the lawsuit.