Judge explains why porn emails barred from ex-AG Kane trial

Friday, March 3, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The conviction of former Attorney General Kathleen Kane in a perjury case should stand, a judge wrote in an opinion defending the decision to bar evidence about a pornographic email scandal at the state prosecutors' office.

Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy wrote in a 103-page opinion released Thursday that none of the issues Kane's lawyers have raised about her trial and conviction justify overturning the verdict.

Kane was convicted of two felony counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor charges in August for unlawfully leaking grand jury materials in a political payback scheme and lying about it under oath.

She was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail but is free on bail while she appeals. She did not testify at trial.

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Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is escorted from Montgomery County courthouse after her sentencing hearing in Norristown, Pa, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016.

The judge said Kane "was accorded all of the constitutional, statutory and rule-based right to which she was entitled." She said the "trial was fair and the verdict was just."

The filing sets the stage for Kane to appeal to the Superior Court. Her attorney did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

Demchick-Alloy described the rationale behind her ruling that Kane's lawyers could not tell jurors about the email scandal that Kane brought to light as part of an internal review into how the agency handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case before she took office. The judge also prevented Kane from bringing up the internal review of the Sandusky prosecution, which resulted in a 45-count conviction and a sentence of 30 to 60 years.

Kane was charged with leaking information to the Philadelphia Daily News about an investigation into the then-head of the Philadelphia NAACP to retaliate against a former state prosecutor she believed had gone to the press about Kane's decision not to file charges in a legislative corruption probe.

Demchick-Alloy said that the Sandusky investigation evidence was irrelevant to Kane's trial and that the pornographic emails could have misled jurors.

"The pornographic evidence was like quicksand, an inescapable trap for the minds of the jurors, which is why (Kane's) lawyers doggedly pursued the production of that evidence and discussion of it in their remarks to the jury," the judge wrote. "Any marginal probative value of the pornography would have been greatly outweighed by the cumulative dangers of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues and misleading the jury."

Kane, 50, is free on bail while she appeals. A Democrat from Scranton who had been in her first term, she resigned after being convicted in August and was succeeded by two of her aides before voters in November elected Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state's current attorney general.