NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- A lawyer for Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane argued Tuesday that she at most made an innocent mistake in sworn testimony last year, but a judge nonetheless upheld a perjury charge filed against Kane over the alleged leak of grand jury material.
Defense lawyer Gerard Shargel, fighting to have the latest charges against Kane dropped at a preliminary hearing, said there was no evidence she intentionally misled a grand jury hearing her contempt case last year.
Kane had told the panel that she was not sworn to secrecy about a 2009 grand jury probe that wrapped up before she took office in January 2013, according to evidence presented Tuesday. The case involved an NAACP official who was never charged. Details about the case surfaced in a Philadelphia Daily News story last year.
Prosecutors after that testimony searched her office and found a copy of a notarized oath she had signed days after she became attorney general. The oath required her "to keep secret all matters transpiring in the grand jury room" unless she had court permission to release it, a detective testified.
"There's no evidence she remembers signing the oath ... and no evidence of intent, or that what she misspoke about was material to the contempt issue," Shargel, a high-powered New York lawyer, argued Tuesday to Montgomery County Magistrate Judge Cathleen Rebar.
Rebar suggested he save his argument for trial. Kane now faces a criminal trial on two felony perjury charges and nearly a dozen misdemeanors, including conspiracy and official oppression. No trial date has been set.
Kane, the first woman and Democrat elected to the position of Pennsylvania's top prosecutor, has dismissed the case as a backlash over her challenge to what she calls the old-boys' network in Pennsylvania law enforcement.
She smiled but declined to comment throughout her appearance Tuesday afternoon at the county courthouse in Norristown.
Kane is set to be arraigned on the latest charges in January.
Shargel, speaking after the hearing, said Kane was undoubtedly "overwhelmed" in her first days in office and could have easily forgotten signing the oath.
The lead prosecutor on the case, First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele, declined to respond to that description of Kane's state of mind. However, he said, "we can all look at her background and the office she was elected to."
Kane is a former assistant prosecutor from Lackawanna County. The state Supreme Court has suspended her law license in response to an ethics complaint linked to the grand jury leak.
Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane faces trial on more charges