Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane defended her decision to close a corruption probe of Philly politicians and one judge that was begun under previous attorney generals at a press conference this morning.
"The allegations made by several cowardly anonymous sources in today's Philadelphia Inquirer paint an inaccurate and sensational version of the details and timeline of events related to Case File No. 36-622," Kane said in a statement issued by her office on Sunday evening. "The real truth is that this investigation was not only deeply flawed, but unraveled long before I was elected and then took the oath of office."
The Inquirer article, which quoted almost entirely from anonymous sources, alleged that State Rep. Louise Bishop, State Rep. Ronald G. Waters, State Rep. Michelle Brownlee, State Rep. Vanessa Brown, and former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes all received sizable donations which they did not report as required by law from a lobbyist named Tyrone Ali, who was in fact an undercover operative working on behalf of then-Attorney General Tom Corbett.
The piece reported that Kane "shut down" the sting.
But Kane said in her statement that the investigation itself was improper.
"The majority of the work, including more than 91 percent of the recordings by a confidential informant, took place 18 months prior to my inauguration, through three former Attorneys General," Kane's statement continued. "When prosecutors dismissed more than 2,000 serious charges of fraud that alleged their informant [Ali] stole $430,000 meant for poor children and seniors, they crippled the chance of this case succeeding in prosecution. Despite the case originating in 2010, this agreement to drop the charges was signed just 24 days after I was elected and weeks before I was sworn in.
The Inquirer reported anonymous sources stating that Kane took issue with the fact that the sting was directed at members of the Black Caucus, although other anonymous sources denied this claim.
"After a detailed review, we learned even more disturbing information regarding this case, including that there may have been a racial focus to the targets of the investigation, improper reporting, inadequate resources and inadmissible evidence," Kane wrote.
In a factual document accompanying her statement, Kane said that after ordering a review of the corruption probe when she took office, senior counsel told her that prosecution of the politicians allegedly caught accepting gifts without reporting them was "not advisable or warranted."
One issue with the case was that the only evidence of wrongdoing was the recordings made by Ali. Ali, who was accused of embezzling $400,000 in welfare benefits but faces no criminal charges due to his cooperation as part of this sting, was the only witness who could testify as to the veracity of the recordings.
According to the Inquirer story on these alleged non-reported gifts, Bishop allegedly received $1,500.
Waters allegedly received $7,650.
Brownlee allegedly received $3,500.
Brown allegedly received $4,000.
Tynes allegedly received a Tiffany's bracelet worth $2,000.
All denied wrongdoing to the Inquirer, except Brown, who refused to comment.
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody released a statement today questioning the "apparent targeting of a select group of legislators," but urged the individuals in question to report all donations they received.
"If it’s true that any legislators accepted gifts without reporting them, they should correct that reporting mistake," Dermody said in his statement.
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