Reporter Shields Leak Source, but Testimony Has Sting for AG Kane

      NORRISTOWN (CN) — After a failed maneuver to throw out the perjury case against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the defense rested its case Friday without calling any witnesses.
     “There is more than enough evidence for this case to move forward to the jury’s decision,” Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy told the court upon the parties’ return from morning recess.
     Kane, the first woman and first Democrat ever elected to attorney general in Pennsylvania, has been on trial all week on criminal charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and other crimes.
     Prosecutors hope to show that Kane exacted revenge on former prosecutor Frank Fina in 2014 by arranging 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.
     Before letting the defense rest, Demchick-Alloy brought the attorney general, clad in a sleek black dress, to the witness stand.
     With the jury not yet present, Demchick-Alloy asked Kane to confirm that she does not need more time and does want to testify.
     “I have considered all that,” Kane said with a smile. “And I don’t believe it’s necessary for me to testify and I agree with my counsel that the defense should rest.”
     After calling in the jury, Demchick Alloy set closing arguments for 8:30 a.m. Monday.
     Prosecutors closed their case this morning with testimony from Chris Brennan, the reporter behind that Daily News article.
     Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele asked Brennan directly who provided him with the documents for the Daily News article about Fina.
     “I’m going to respectively decline to answer,” said Brennan, a former political editor the Philadelphia Daily News who now writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
     Brennan invoked the Philadelphia Shield law when asked to reveal his sources but did confirm that the documents from his source came “all together.”
     A day earlier, the prosecution had Kane’s political consultant Josh Morrow admit on the stand that he retrieved a “package” from the attorney general’s former first deputy, Adrian King, and delivered that package to Brennan.
     Echoing Morrow’s testimony, Brennan said the material he obtained from his source included a transcript, a memo and emails.
     Kane’s defense hinges on her knowledge that the leak came from her office.
     Brennan told the court this morning that he reached out to sources whom the material implicated before filing his article.
     He said Agent Michael Miletto and William Davis, former deputy attorney general to Fina, responded: “I cannot comment, that is grand jury information.”
     Gerald Shargel, an attorney at the head of Kane’s defense, appeared calm while questioning Brennan. An attorney with Winston & Strawn, Shargel did not read from his notes and moved around the courtroom with ease.
     “Wasn’t this story covered by many other news outlets?” Shargel asked.
     “Yes, it was actually broke by a website AccessPhilly, and the topic covered by many media outlets,” Brennan confirmed.
     In prior testimony, however, Brennan has said he was the only reporter, to “his knowledge,” who covered the story from the “2009 perspective.”
     Brennan confirmed that the “the documents [from his source] spoke about grand jury investigations” of 2009.
     Shargel dug deeper to distinguish Kane from the “package” and documents.
     “There was no statement made about the attorney general directly?” he asked.
     “No,” Brennan said.
     “Other than no comment,” DA Steele slid in, before the witness was dismissed from the stand.
      Prosecutors also this morning called to the stand Catherine Hicks, the former fiancee of the late Philadelphia NAACP head whose 2009 grand jury investigation is at the heart of the leaked materials.
     Before his death on Oct. 4, 2015, Mondesire was owner and publisher of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, and he hosted a Sunday morning radio show called “Inside Story.”
     Hicks, who publishes the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, described Mondesire as a “busy person, and a community person; very outgoing and outspoken.”
     The witness’ smile faded when the prosecution asked her to look at the Daily News article about Mondesire.
     “He was very upset and angry about that,” Hicks said, beginning to cry as she pointed to the June 6, 2014, article.
     “After that article he was suspended by the NAACP, was no longer able to perform on the morning radio show,” Hicks said.
     “It seriously affected our lives, and the stress took a toll,” the witness continued. “He internalized a lot of the hurt and embarrassment.”
     Gabrielle Stahl, who works in Kane’s office as a fraud analyst, took the stand this morning as well for the prosecution.
     Stahl shed light on remarks by David Peifer, a senior special agent with the attorney general’s office who testified Wednesday as part of an immunity deal.
     A former investigative services coordinator, Stahl said Peifer asked her in July 2014 to scan some documents and email them to Kane.
     “He explained it was a folder on his desk, in the back of his office, including some emails and a newspaper article,” Stahl said.
     Prosecutors projected an email from Stahl to Kane on the large screens in the court. It included attachments titled “Fina Memo” and “Mondesire,” both of which echo prior testimony about the “package” for Daily News reporter Brennan.
     On cross-examination, defense attorney Douglas Rosenbloom had the witness confirm that “AG Kane did not ask for this information, this was Peifer’s request.”
     Rosenbloom pointed out that Stahl also did not receive any “read receipt” or confirmation that Kane saw the email.
     Judge Demchick-Alloy had not yet called in the jury after the morning recess when Kane’s defense team lobbed its failed motion for a judgment of acquittal.
     “There is insufficient evident to prove that any of this was intentional,” Rosenbloom said. “No reasonable jury could find that the commonwealth proved any of these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. … Their own witnesses contradicted each other, claiming on the stand that they are framing one another.”
     The prosecution insisted meanwhile that they had “met their burden throughout.”
     “We cannot ignore the witness testimony of her [Kane’s] plan and her [Kane’s] plot, the phone records and all of the text messages,” DA Steele said.
     Pool photos via Dan Gleiter/
Top Photo: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane smiles at the Montgomery County Courthouse for the fifth day of her trial on perjury charges related to the alleged leak of secret grand jury materials.
     Photo 2: Federal perjury charges are a bear, but Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane shoots a winning smile as witness testimony in her criminal case draws to a close Friday.
     Photo 3: Catherine Hicks enters court to testify for the prosecution against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Hicks was engaged to the late J. Whyatt Mondesire whose 2009 grand jury investigation is at the heart of materials Kane is accused of leaking.

Photo 4: Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele at the courthouse Friday for the fifth day of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s criminal trial on perjury and other charges related to the alleged leak of grand jury materials.

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