Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor has taken on the new role of criminal defendant.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane was arraigned Saturday afternoon in suburban Philadelphia on charges including a felony count of perjury. She did not enter a plea during the brief proceedings via closed-circuit television and did not speak other than to respond to the judge yes or no.
Magisterial District Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar set a preliminary hearing for Aug. 24 and set bail for $10,000 unsecured bond.
Kane is accused of leaking secret grand jury information through an operative to a newspaper reporter as payback for a former state prosecutor she thought made her look bad, and then lying about her actions under oath.
Prosecutors say she also enlisted aides to spy on office employees and keep tabs on a grand jury probe into the leak.
“We’re looking forward to fighting the charges,” defense lawyer Rost Kramer said in Norristown after the arraignment. “She has no plans to resign from her position.”
Kane said nothing when she left and avoided a phalanx of news cameras by going out a side door.
The case against Kane, a political newcomer in 2012 when she became the first woman and first Democrat elected as Pennsylvania attorney general, could end her status as the state’s highest-ranking female officeholder.
The 49-year-old Kane contends she is innocent of any wrongdoing and has portrayed herself as a victim of payback for taking on a corrupt, old-boy law enforcement network and exposing state employees for exchanging pornographic emails.
But her support among fellow Democrats has faded in the aftermath of a Thursday news conference at which District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman outlined specific allegations and filed more than a half dozen charges that also included two misdemeanor counts of obstruction.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat who took office in January, joined political leaders and editorialists calling for her resignation following Ferman’s announcement.
Kane’s driver and confidant, former Dunmore police chief Patrick Reese, also is charged with indirect criminal contempt for allegedly snooping in office computers that store emails sent and received by employees.
Prosecutors say Reese was looking for information to keep the attorney general informed about the grand jury investigating the leak. She directed the spying operation, according to the criminal complaint.
Former Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, who authorized the grand jury probe that led to the charges and who retired in December, said Friday that Kane should step down. But she has refused to resign and many critics are exploring possible ways to force her out of office.
Castille said the court, working through its disciplinary board, could order an emergency suspension of Kane’s law license if it believes her alleged misconduct has been “egregious.”
Though Kane would have 10 days to fight a suspension, Castille said a suspension would force her out of office because the state constitution requires the attorney general to have a law license.
“How can you function as a top law enforcement official facing a felony charge?” he asked.
Another possible scenario calls for Kane’s impeachment by the Legislature, a process in which the House brings charges and the Senate acts as the jury.