Perjury charge recommended for Pennsylvania attorney general

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Posted: Jan 21, 2015 5:22 PM
Perjury charge recommended for Pennsylvania attorney general

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Court documents released Wednesday show a grand jury concluded there are reasonable grounds to charge the state's top prosecutor with perjury, false swearing, official oppression and obstruction after an investigation into leaks of secret investigative materials.

The records made public by the state Supreme Court say the grand jury's Dec. 18 presentment regarding Attorney General Kathleen Kane has been sent to the district attorney in Montgomery County to decide whether to file charges.

The district attorney, Risa Ferman, hasn't spoken publicly about the matter and didn't comment Wednesday.

The records were released in connection with Kane's request to the Supreme Court to remove special prosecutor Thomas Carluccio. Kane argues there was no legal basis for his appointment by Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter, who supervised the grand jury.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the state Supreme Court agreed to consider her claim, ordering Kane and Carluccio to address previous court decisions and a state law concerning independent counsel that expired a decade ago. The justices plan to hear oral argument in the matter in Philadelphia in March.

In an unrelated public appearance Wednesday in Philadelphia, Kane maintained her innocence. The special prosecutor found nothing illegal and instead had to "make things up," she said.

"We moved to unseal those documents because the people of Pennsylvania should know what's in there, they should know that we're fighting this and ... that unsealing shows that there was nothing done wrong," Kane told reporters. "That special prosecutor looking for leaks from my office in a grand jury didn't even find them."

A court filing by Carpenter identified the charges but didn't include the full presentment, which typically lays out the basis for any charges, similar to an arrest affidavit of probable cause.

Kane, a former prosecutor in Lackawanna County, took office in 2013 as the first woman and first Democrat elected as state attorney general. She has not been charged. Carpenter and Carluccio, a Montgomery County lawyer and former prosecutor, are both Republicans.

The investigation first became public in a Philadelphia Inquirer report in September. It cited anonymous sources saying a grand jury was looking into how records about a 2009 investigation by Kane's Republican predecessors of the then-president of the Philadelphia NAACP ended up in a June story in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Kane insisted she would not back down and suggested the investigation is political.

"If they can do it to me, they'll do it to somebody else, and that is unacceptable in my book," Kane said.

In one of the unsealed filings, Carluccio wrote to the high court Jan. 7 that both Kane and her office have effectively admitted the disclosure of investigative materials came from within the office, "and perhaps from the attorney general herself."

The high court released the 80 pages of records as it considers a request by Kane that the court invalidate Carluccio's May appointment by Carpenter.

"In this case, Judge Carpenter exceeded his lawful authority in appointing special prosecutor Carluccio to public office," Kane's lawyers wrote in a Dec. 18 filing. "In doing so, he also violated the separation of powers doctrine inherent in the Pennsylvania Constitution."

Carpenter told the high court in a Dec. 30 opinion that by May, he had "established that there was a leak of secret grand jury information and that the leak most likely came from the Office of the Attorney General."

He said Kane's potential involvement meant she had a conflict of interest, so he had to appoint someone else as special prosecutor. He also said there was "strong precedent" allowing grand jury supervisory judges to appoint special prosecutors to look into allegations of grand jury leaks.

Kane testified before the grand jury Nov. 17, confirming to reporters for the first time that she was under investigation.

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Associated Press writer Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia contributed to this story.