Pennsylvania’s attorney general, accused of illegally leaking grand jury information to embarrass a political foe and then lying about it, was ordered on Monday to stand trial on perjury, obstruction of justice and other corruption charges.
Capping a five-hour preliminary hearing in a suburban Philadelphia courtroom, a judge ruled that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence establishing a “prima facie” case against the state’s top law enforcement officer, Kathleen Kane.
She was elected attorney general in 2012, becoming the first woman and first Democrat in the state to win the office since it ceased being an appointed post in 1980.
Kane, 49, who has remained free on her own recognizance, was ordered to stand trial in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on a perjury charge, as well as three counts of obstruction of justice, four counts of official oppression and one count of false swearing.
No trial date has been set.
Kane has resisted widespread calls for her resignation, including from Governor Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat. Professing her innocence, she maintains she is being prosecuted by political enemies seeking to hide their involvement in a pornographic email scandal that rocked the state last fall.
Lead defense attorney Gerald Shargel attempted to raise the email pornography issue toward the end of Monday’s hearing, but Magisterial District Judge Cathleen Rebar did not allow it.
“This is not a press conference,” she said.
According to prosecutors, Kane illegally leaked grand jury information to embarrass Frank Fina, who was chief deputy attorney general under the previous governor, Republican Tom Corbett, and had led the investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex abuse charges.
Kane blamed Fina for a March 16, 2014, report in the Philadelphia Inquirer that said she had shut down an investigation of corrupt black Democratic legislators in Philadelphia that had been led by Fina.
In retaliation, according to prosecutors, Kane made public documents that appeared to show Fina had dropped the ball on an investigation of alleged misuse of grant monies by a Philadelphia official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The perjury charge stems from what prosecutors describe as a number of false statements Kane made in regard to the leaked documents when she appeared before a grand jury.
Much of Monday’s hearing was taken up by Montgomery County Detective Paul Bradbury reading from excerpts of grand jury testimony in which Kane allegedly lied to prosecutors.