Kathleen Kane Appoints Special Prosecutor to Investigate Porn Emails

Accusing her opponents of attempting to get her job without having to run for it, Kathleen Kane appoints a former Maryland AG to investigate offensive emails.

Kathleen Kane at Constitution Center press conference

Photo | Dan McQuade

When the National Constitution Center broke ground in 2000, its backers could not have imagined what the building would be used for 15 years later: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane projecting a slideshow of pornography and racist jokes onto a 25-foot-tall screen in its main auditorium.

Kane had the images — the majority of them photos of African-Americans at a formal dance of some kind, with mocking captions — projected onto the screen before today’s big announcement: Kane has appointed former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler as an independent special deputy attorney general to investigate emails sent from state email addresses in the “Porngate” scandal.

“Today you may not be on the list of those that these men looked down upon,” Kane said at the press conference. “But tomorrow, it may be you. It may be your son, it may be your daughter, it may be your neighbor, it may be your coworker. And, to me, that is intolerable, and I will not allow it on my watch — no matter how long that watch lasts.” Kane said those who sent the emails were “stealing our fundamental civil rights.”

Kane, a first-term Democrat elected with 56 percent of the vote in 2012, did not take questions at the press conference. She announced the investigation in response to a Senate committee’s decision to move forward with its investigation into removing Kane from office. Kane was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in August; her law license has since been suspended.

Kane said she was appointing Gansler, also a Democrat, because she wanted an independent review, adding that several members of her office disagreed with the decision. “The attorney general herself has lost the power to remove certain people [on her staff] she wants removed,” Gansler said.

“To the few who challenge it, including members of my own staff, I post a simple three-pronged question,” Kane said. “Are you a white male? Are you, or one of your buddies, in this email network? Are you trying to get my job without the benefit of having to run for it and be chosen by the people of Pennsylvania?”

Gansler, who did take questions from reporters, said he expected the investigation to cost less than $2 million. (The Freeh report, on the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, cost $8.1 million.)

The state will also retain Gansler’s law firm, BuckleySandler, to assist him in the job. Gansler said he is being billed at the regular hourly rate (annualized at $158,000 a year) for an attorney general, and added his law firm would be billed at the regular rate for outside counsel. Those assisting him from the firm are Benjamin Klubes, Caitlin Kasmar, Antonio Reynolds and Elizabeth Bailey.

One thing Gansler has in common with Kane: He is not currently licensed to practice law in the state of Pennsylvania, which will have to be rectified before the investigation can begin. And as PennLive’s Dennis Roddy notes, has some baggage of his own: Two years ago, he was photographed at an underage teen drinking party at a home rented by his son.

As a special deputy attorney general, Gansler has subpoena powers. He said he will turn over any evidence of wrongdoing he uncovers to the Pennsylvania State Police. He can also convene grand juries, participate in court proceedings, obtain immunity for witnesses and any other powers that the Pennsylvania attorney general normally has.

“We have no baggage, we have no preconceived notions,” Gansler said. “We will not be focusing on some people and not others. Whether it’s a judge, a cabinet secretary, a district attorney, a defense attorney… whoever they may be.”

Gansler did not say how long the investigation is expected to take. He said, at the end of the investigation, he would release a report and other information. He did not say he would release all the emails, or which emails from state servers he would be looking at. “We’re not committing to release all the emails,” Gansler said. “We hope to release most of the emails eventually.”

“What they are looking for is really two things: Inappropriate ex parte communications between prosecutors and judges or lawyers and prosecutors that might be defined as inappropriate,” Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said after the press conference. “They’re also looking at who shared these emails… Even if there were no inappropriate ex parte communication there is a sense you have to have a close relationship with whoever you shared these emails with.”

Ardo later said this was different from other investigations. “What she said in her comments is really relevant,” he said. “Previous investigations so far were conducted by men. She has a different perspective than the others.” When asked how this was different — as Gansler is a man — he trailed off.

As one might expect at a press conference that opens with a slideshow of offensive jokes sent by people over email, this was a strange one. The first person to speak was Krishna Rami, who read a prepared statement from NOW Philadelphia supporting Kane’s special prosecutor. (She was also previously part of the a press conference that called for the firing of three city prosecutors who were involved in sending or receiving offensive emails.) Reporters then yelled questions at her, but she said she would only take questions in writing. “Come on,” Fox 29’s Jeff Cole said. “This is a press conference!”

One reporter attempted to yell questions during Kane’s prepared statement, but she ignored him. Kane had several supporters in the press galley, however, who applauded at the beginning at end of her speech. One man yelled out that Kathleen Kane was a hero for appointing the special prosecutor.

When it all ended, reporters were ushered out of the room. The F.M. Kirby Auditorium had to be cleared for another event. I asked: Unlike the Kane presser, it did not include a slideshow of photos with mean, racist captions or naked women.