NORRISTOWN — Kathleen Kane’s team of attorneys didn’t call any witnesses during her criminal trial last week — and today, in closing arguments, lawyers for the Attorney General of Pennsylvania explained away evidence against her by passing the buck.
Relying heavily on Kane’s own testimony before the grand jury, defense attorney Seth Farber spent more than 90 minutes describing Kane as a figurehead who simply wanted the public to be aware of an abandoned investigation. But, he said, she doesn’t shoulder the blame for releasing secret grand jury documents in the process and didn’t know how the paperwork made it out of her office.
That blame? Her defense says it rests squarely with two men who testified against Kane: Her former first deputy Adrian King and her ex-political consultant Josh Morrow.
“Those are two witnesses who will say whatever they need to protect themselves,” Farber said. “What’s stunning about these two is these two contradict each other… and I submit you would not even buy a used car from either one of them.”
Kane faces charges of perjury, obstruction, abuse of office and related charges as prosecutors say she conspired in 2014 to plant a story in the Philadelphia Daily News by orchestrating a leak of secret grand jury material.
That story, they say, was meant to embarrass Frank Fina, a former employee of the Office of the Attorney General whom Kane was feuding with.
Morrow testified for the prosecution after he was granted immunity and admitted to handing over the secret documents to Chris Brennan, a former reporter for the Daily News. Morrow said he was acting under the direction of Kane. Farber said it was Morrow who was “obsessed” with getting revenge against Fina.
Farber described Kane’s role by saying it’s not disputed that she wanted to get out information about the Mondesire investigation. Before the alleged leak, a reporter from the now-defunct Axis Philly reached out to the Office of the Attorney General for information on the Mondesire investigation.
So, the defense said, Kane enlisted Morrow to tell the Daily News that the investigation was abandoned by her predecessors. She wanted Morrow to take care of it, Farber said, because her press department was “dismantled” at the time.
In court Thursday, prosecutors played a recorded phone call Morrow made after he says he was directed by Kane to leak the Mondesire documents. On that call — caught on an FBI wiretap in an unrelated investigation — Morrow has a conversation with a friend about what Kane wanted him to do and asks for advice.
“So Kathleen called me today… and was like Adrian [King] has documents for you to leak out,” Morrow said over the phone, continuing: “and all this bullshit about Frank Fina and the Jerry Mondesire investigation.”
After the playing of the taped call, prosecutors showed the court a series of texts between Morrow and Kane showing her an interest in the story they were hoping to have run in the Daily News.
At the beginning of May, after Morrow gave the Mondesire documents to Brennan, he and Kane texted about “revenge.” During that conversation, Morrow texted Kane, “time for Frank to feel the heat.”
Later that month, Kane texted Morrow “Where’s my story?” The two also texted on June 5, the day before the story ran, about how it would be “a bad day for Corbett and company.” Fina worked under former Gov. and then-Attorney General Tom Corbett.
A grand jury investigation was launched into who leaked the secret documents to the Daily News, and Morrow testified he and Kane came up with a series of lies in order to cover up their scheme.
Last August, Kane was charged after the grand jury recommended Montgomery County officials do so. In the criminal complaint for those charges, prosecutors wrote that during her grand jury testimony, Kane said she wasn’t aware of signing a “secrecy oath” as it related to the Mondesire investigation.
But an executive assistant in the Office of the Attorney General remembered notarizing such an oath, and handed it over to officials. Kane was subsequently charged again last October. Today, Farber said she “just forgot” and that “honest mistakes are not perjury.”
Kane has vehemently denied that she orchestrated the release of secret grand jury materials, but says instead that she wanted Morrow to speak to media about how it wasn’t her office that shut down an investigation into Mondesire — it was the previous administration.
Currently operating on a suspended law license, Kane stands to lose her license to practice law entirely if she’s convicted. And if the jury finds her guilty on charges of perjury, she could spend time behind bars.