By David DeKok
HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania's top prosecutor believes "deplorable" images of children found in a lewd emails exchanged by state officials were not pornographic and no crime was committed in sharing them, her spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The assessment by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane followed an interview with CNN broadcast on Tuesday night in which she said she discovered images of children in emails with other lewd images downloaded on computers in the attorney general’s office and shared by officials before Kane was elected in 2012.
The children's images in question do not meet the legal definition of child pornography, Renee Martin, Kane's press secretary, said on Wednesday. "But they weren’t children playing in a sandbox, either," she said.
The broader email scandal has resulted in the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and the firing or suspension without pay of more than a dozen state employees. Other top officials including Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and E. Christopher Abruzzo, the state's chief environmental official, also have been named in the investigation.
"When I saw them, they literally took my breath away," Kane told CNN, referring to the images of children.
"And they are deplorable: hard-core, graphic, sometimes violent emails that had a string of videos and pictures depicting sometimes children, old women. Some of them involved violent sexual acts against women," she said, according to media reports.
One of the images, titled "men in training," showed a young boy peering down the pants of a girl, Martin said. A second showed two children kissing.
Among the images of adults was one showing a champagne bottle spraying at the vaginal area of a woman, she said. A fourth depicted a woman appearing to have sex with a snake.
Because the photographs are legal, Martin said there will be no prosecution over the images but that they were unacceptable.
"People who pay us to work in state government deserve better," she said.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott)