In the late evening on August 15, 2016, a 12-person jury in Norristown, Pennsylvania, unanimously convicted state Attorney General Kathleen Kane of two counts of felony perjury as well as a host of misdemeanor charges, including official oppression, obstruction, false swearing and conspiracy. Kane faces a maximum sentence of 28 years in prison, although Pennsylvania’s sentencing guidelines recommend a more lenient sentence.
Prosecutors charged Kane based on allegations that she leaked secret grand jury documents related to a 2009 embezzlement probe to retaliate against former prosecutors she believed had embarrassed her. See State AG Insights August 6, 2016. The perjury charges arose from her purported testimony to a grand jury concerning whether she knew about the documents leaked to the Philadelphia Daily News and whether she had been sworn to protect the secrecy of the grand jury process in that investigation. The evidence at trial included testimony from a government witness who said Kane gave him a direct order to release the documents. Prosecutors also unearthed a written oath signed by Kane pledging to maintain the confidentiality of grand jury information.
Kane’s attorneys did not dispute that she wanted to publicize that her predecessors had abandoned the embezzlement investigation of J. Whyatt Mondesire, the former head of the Philadelphia NAACP. They argued, however, that she did not know how the confidential papers left her office and that the government’s star witness–who testified pursuant to a grant of immunity–was not credible.
Kane’s conviction will require her to resign her post, but not immediately. The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that any civil officer person convicted of misbehavior while in office be removed. Kane may resign now or remain in office until she is sentenced. The state constitution also grants the House of Representatives the power to remove a civil officer via impeachment proceedings and the governor the power to appoint an individual to fill a vacancy in the office of the Attorney General.
Kane has consistently refused to vacate her office voluntarily. Regardless, her term expires in January. County commissioner Josh Shapiro (D) and state senator John Rafferty (R) are running to succeed Kane as the Commonwealth’s chief legal officer.
According to her counsel, Kane plans to appeal the verdict. Sentencing will occur within 90 days.