Lawyers for Kane Say AG Can’t Be Blamed for Leaks from Her Office

     NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) — After opting not to call any witnesses in the perjury trial of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the defense team spent nearly two hours pushing jurors for an acquittal Monday morning.
     “The evidence here is in the witnesses and the exhibits, and the evidence here does not follow what the prosecution claims about Ms. Kane,” said Seth Farber, an attorney with the New York firm Winston & Strawn.
     Prosecutors hope to show that Kane began leaking secret grand jury records during her second year in office after her reputation had been tarnished by a March 2014 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
      Over five days of trial last week, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele Attorney mounted witnesses to testify that Kane had blamed the article in the Inquirer on a leak by former state prosecutor Frank Fina.
     Kane, the first woman and first Democrat ever elected to attorney general in Pennsylvania, is accused of engineering leaks of her own to exact political retribution.
     Prosecutors say she arranged for the Philadelphia Daily News to receive secret grand jury materials intimating that Fina had fumbled a 2009 investigation of Philadelphia civil rights leader J. Whyatt Mondesire.
     DA Steele pushed the two-hour mark in his closing as well, an argument he opened with the words “this is war” — a phrase he repeated and projected in capital letters on two large screens in the courtroom.
     “These are her words,” Steele said of Kane, telling jurors that the attorney general was vengeful and angry.
     Telling the jury that Mondesire was a casualty of Kane’s war, the prosecutor said Kane knew the statute of limitations protected the man.
     But Kane knowingly bucked the law to make her point, Steele said, bellowing: “In our job, you may not release grand jury information.”
      Calling Kane “a liar,” Steele said the jury has all the evidence it needs to find her guilty of abuse of power, false swearing, obstruction of justice and perjury.
     “Don’t forget how simple this case really is,” Steele said. “She got secret information out and facilitated getting that done. That, ladies and gentlemen, makes her guilty of a crime.”
     Farber insisted this morning, however, that Kane did not want to “go to war” with anyone, and that her “anger was directed at the Inquirer, not at Fina.”
     With his closing argument stretching more than 90 minutes, Farber apologized to the jury for the lengthy summation but said he needed the time to put the evidence in “context.” The jurors seemed restless in the morning, but the prosecution’s closing arguments had them shifting in their seats as well.
     Farber focused much of his argument on the testimony of Kane’s former consultant Josh Morrow, who told the jury that he engineered a cover-up story with Kane about the leaks.
     Morrow had said Kane asked him to deliver the leaked grand jury materials to the press, but Farber said the evidence does not tie Kane to any leak.
     “There is no dispute that Kane wanted Morrow to get the press to write a story, but not to leak grand jury information,” Farber said.
     Kane wanted only “to show that the Mondesire case wasn’t pursued because of the prior administration,” he added.
     As to why Kane did not have a press conference on these issues, Farber noted that her press team was young so she wanted exposure to come outside her office.
     This is “something political officials do all the time, but she did not want to leak docs,” Farber said.
     “While Ms. Kane is not a fan of Fina, it was Morrow, who had his own personal reasons to target Fina, because it was Josh Morrow who Fina claimed unlawfully received money,” he added.
     In the prosecution’s closing, meanwhile, Steele replayed part of an April 22, 2014, phone call by Morrow, secretly recorded by the FBI.
     “Kathleen called me and has information she wants me to leak out,” Morrow said in that call. “She’s unhinged,” he added.
     Farber told the court not to trust Morrow — “he lies about a lot of things.”
     The attorney also reminded the jury that both Morrow and Adrian King, Kane’s former first deputy attorney general, accused the other of framing him.
     “They will say whatever they need to, to protect themselves,” Farber said of King and Morrow.
      While “Kane’s story is completely consistent,” Farber said, he accused Morrow of telling “lies which are shown through his inconsistencies.”
     Morrow admitted on the witness stand last week that he testified for immunity, having lied in two prior grand juries.
     As Farber’s lengthy closing droned on, however, he seemed to get tangled in his own argument. The attorney later admitted that Kane had delivered “minor inconsistencies” about signing specific secrecy oaths.
     He called this a “common mistake,” citing the volume of work in the attorney general’s office. “Everyone makes mistakes” he said to the jury.
     Farber also stumbled in quoting the opening statement delivered a week earlier by District Attorney Michele Henry.
     “Revenge is a dish best served cold … her words,” Farber said, pointing at Henry, “not Kane’s!”
     Prosecutors had showed the jury a text message exchange Thursday, however, in which Kane and Morrow used the same phrase.
     
     Morrow: “What is the saying about revenge?”
     Kane: “Best served cold, are we emailing out soon?”
     Morrow: “Yes, I hope you enjoy the read in the next few days.”
     
     Farber emphasized Monday that this text included no reference by Kane about Fina.
     “She just filled in the common phrase,” the attorney added.
     The defense team armed the jury with binders containing much of the evidence and testimony presented in the trial.
     “As you read through the binder,” Farber said, “notice Josh Morrow is obsessed with getting back at Fina, he is the one who brings up Fina’s name — not Ms. Kane.”
     The DA asked the jurors to use their common sense and follow the order of events.
     Before publishing his article with Daily News, the DA noted, reporter Chris Brennan sought comment from Michael Mileroo, Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo, William Davd, David Peifer, J. Whyatt Mondesire and the Office of Attorney General.
     Steele said no one commented; they all confirmed “this is grand jury information, no comment.”
     Though Morrow turned over his electronic devices to authorities as part of his immunity deal, Farber noted that there are still many pieces missing from the puzzle.
     “When he [Morrow] was supposedly ‘coming clean’ just weeks ago, he refused to allow the authorities to get all texts, only some — excluding texts with his friend Judge McCafferty,” Farber said.
     Displaying a timeline on the courtroom screens, Steele told the court that Kane was excited for the article about Fina to run.
     “Where is my story,” Kane texted Morrow on May 12, 2014. “I’m dying here, while you’re drinking.”
     “Our story was slated until Monday,” Morrow texted Kane on June 3, 2014.
     The Daily News article containing grand jury information actually appeared on June 6, however — a Friday.
     Farber told the court that “Morrow and Kane texted all the time about mundane things.”
     He said the prosecutor presented “a cherry-picked list of text messages.”
     Steele countered that there was nothing mundane about Morrow’s lunch with Kane in August 2014 after a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate the Mondesire leak.
     “What was she so worried about?” Steele yelled. “It’s not normal procedure to meet with a public official and be checked for a wire.”
     Steele projected handwritten notes that Bruce Beemer, the former first deputy attorney general, made when speaking to Kane about Mondesire.
     Beemer called the article “very troubling” but summarized Kane’s response as “not a big deal.”
     When prosecutors had called him to the stand last week, Beemer testified that he had asked Kane: “Did you see the article in the Philadelphia Daily News, this is a problem, it’s clear that they got this information directly out of our office, and I want permission to look into our Norristown office.”
     Beemer had said Kane was dismissive, saying, “Don’t worry about, it’s not a big deal, we have more important things to do.”
     Kane’s defense team also tried to dismantle witness testimony from David Peifer, a special agent in charge of the Bureau of Special Forces for the attorney general. Like Morrow, Peifer also testified in exchange for immunity.
     Farber insisted that the prosecution has not met its “burden of proof” and urged the jurors to “use your common sense.”
     Kane sat calmly in a navy blue skirt-suit as her attorney walked dramatically over to her. “Kathleen Kane is sitting here as just a woman from Scranton, not as attorney general, and is relying on you to look at only the evidence presented,” Farber said. “We’re confident that you will find a verdict of not guilty.”
     Steele countered in his closing the jury that Kane is the sole defendant. “You’re not here to decide Adrian King or Josh Morrow,” he said. “Please just focus on the defendant.”
     “Find courage, speak with one voice, and render the only verdict … that [Kane] is guilty of official oppression, obstruction of the administration of justice, conspiracy, false swearing and perjury,” the DA concluded.
     Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy directed the jury to begin deliberations at around 1 p.m.
     
     Pool photos via Jessica Griffin with the Philadelphia Inquirer

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