Pennsylvania is now on track to have its third attorney general in less than a week.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced today that he’s nominated Pennsylvania Inspector General Bruce Beemer to serve as the attorney general of Pennsylvania until January, when a new leader takes office after November’s election. Beemer, who is a former employee of the Office of the Attorney General and a well-respected figure in Harrisburg, must be confirmed by the state Senate. With top Senate leaders on both sides of aisle already supporting Beemer’s nomination, that confirmation is likely to come soon.
This nomination comes after now-former Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s Tuesday resignation after being convicted on charges of perjury, obstruction and abuse of office. Her first deputy Bruce Castor took over as acting attorney general on Wednesday. And now, his time could already be close to up.
Here’s five things to know about Beemer:
1. He’s been around
Before Wolf appointed Beemer to be Pennsylvania’s first inspector general, he was the first deputy attorney general under Kane and essentially oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Attorney General. He’s been with the office since 2011, when then-acting Attorney General Linda Kelly named him chief of staff. In 2013, Kane promoted him to Chief of Criminal Prosecutions.
But before he made his way to Harrisburg, Beemer was an experienced prosecutor in the Pittsburgh area. He became an assistant district attorney at the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office in 1996. According to his official bio, “he worked in the Crimes Persons, Narcotics and Homicide Trial Units where he tried more than 100 jury trials and prosecuted more than 75 homicide cases.”
He made his way through the ranks to become a supervisor, and then left the office in 2010 for private practice where he was focused on plaintiff environmental toxic tort cases and white-collar criminal defense.
2. Beemer’s been in his current job for a month
Beemer slid into the Inspector General slot in July and replaced Grayling Williams, who left the cabinet-level position for a job in another state. Maybe Beemer got the job because he really wanted out of the Office of the Attorney General.
In March, Kane apparently wanted a new No. 2, but she didn’t need any more bad press for retaliating against people who were prepared to testify against her (more on that later). So in a huge slight to Beemer, Kane brought in former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor to fill the made-up position of “Solicitor General.”
Castor was granted a higher salary than Beemer and was given the opportunity to made all the legal decisions while Kane was operated on a suspended law license. And Beemer answered to Castor.
3. Beemer testified last week against Kane
He testified against Kane first in 2014 when a grand jury was investigating whether or not Kane orchestrated an illegal leak of grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News. He testified against her again last week — that is, before Kane was found guilty — about Kane’s demeanor in the office and where he thought the grand jury leak came from.
In late July 2014, a few weeks after raising concern over a Daily News article containing information about a halted 2009 grand jury investigation, Bruce Beemer received a phone call from Attorney General Kathleen Kane. He knew the call was coming. They had spoken earlier in the morning. But the responses he heard from Kane, he said, made his heart sink “a little.”
Beemer, second-in-command under Kane at the time, recounted details of the call this morning in court as he continued to express confidence the leak of grand jury material to the Daily News at issue in Kane’s perjury and obstruction case came from the Office of the Attorney General.
He also testified that Kane tried to divert him from investigating where the leak came from:
He also explained the first time he spoke with Kane about the Daily News article, when it ran on June 6, 2014. He said he asked if he could look into it because he thought the leak had come from the AG’s Norristown office.
“She said, ‘don’t worry about it,’” Beemer said. “‘It’s not a big deal. We have more important things to do.’”
4. He helped build the case against Jerry Sandusky and Penn State
Among Beemer’s most high-profile cases was the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case and the corresponding charges filed against top Penn State University officials.
While Beemer was still at the Office of the Attorney General, he was leading the case against Graham Spanier, the former Penn State president accused of conspiring to cover up Sandusky’s crimes. He also led the 2013 preliminary hearing against Spanier and two of his top associates — former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley — calling their alleged cover-up “a conspiracy of silence.”
5. Beemer’s well-respected in the legal community
Top officials in Pennsylvania’s judicial system haven’t gotten along with Kane over the last year or so. And when Castor took over for her Wednesday, the legal community… wasn’t exactly thrilled.
It’s different with Beemer. Because he’s a career prosecutor, some have already come out to say he’s the right man for the job: