Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) defended her decision not to move forward with a corruption case allegedly involving state lawmakers, citing racial issues and potential problems with a confidential informant.
“I would make that same decision all over, again and again and again,” said Kane.
Kane’s news conference Monday followed a lengthy front-page article in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer (click here) that detailed a roughly 18-month investigation into state lawmakers and a former Philadelphia traffic court judge. The investigation began in October 2010, while Tom Corbett (R) was still attorney general and continued until April 2012, while Linda Kelly was attorney general.
Kane said a confidential informant would offer gifts to eight targets, using taxpayer money. In all, Kane said more than $20,000 went to targets of the investigation.
The inquirer named four Democratic state representatives who allegedly took money, including Ron Waters ($7,650), Louise Bishop ($1,500), Vanessa Brown ($4,000) and Michelle Brownlee ($3,500). All denied wrongdoing to the Inquirer.
The lawmakers either declined to comment or did not return calls seeking comment to FOX43.
The newspaper also reported Judge Thoamsine Tynes accepted a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet. She acknowledged to the Inquirer receiving the bracelet.
Kane said one of the challenges in prosecuting the case was that two people came forward to say they were told to target African Americans in the investigation.
“Two separate individuals came forward and said that they were told to target only members of the Black Caucus,” Kane said. She did not say who instructed them to do that, citing a judge’s seal on some evidence in the case.
Kane said a key issue was the credibility of the informant, identified as Tyron Ali.
Ali was the head of Logan Child Care Resource Center and had been charged in 2009 with defrauding the state Department of Education of over $400,000. (To read more about the case click here).
In all, he faced more than 2,000 charges in the alleged scheme.
Kane said Ali recorded conversations with targets of the corruption investigation. The Inquirer reported the targets were offered gifts and cash, sometimes in exchange for votes and contracts.
In exchange for Ali’s cooperation, the 2,000-plus charges against him were dropped on Nov. 30, 2012. That was 45 days before Kane assumed office. Kane said she first learned of the case soon after she was sworn in during a 10-minute briefing.
Kane said she took the case to federal prosecutors as well as Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico. Both recommended she not move forward with it, she said.
Marsico said he reviewed the case in late August 2013. He agreed there could be issues with Ali’s cooperation was a witness and getting the recordings entered as evidence.
“This case was non-prosecutable. This case was done and over before I even took office. We reviewed that case nonetheless to see whether we were able to make a prosecution out of it because, as I said, public corruption is a scourge on our communities,” said Kane.
When asked why she didn’t begin a new investigation upon taking office, Kane said the old evidence still would have to have been turned over to defense counsel.
“You can’t pretend it didn’t happen. You can’t do a do-over. You can’t call a mulligan. The case was what it was before we got there,” said Kane.
Rep. Frank Dermody (D), the House Democratic Leader, released a statement Monday afternoon.
“It saddens me to read about my friends and colleagues in this way. They were elected to represent their districts in state government and they have been doing that job well,” said Dermody. “The allegations reported in the article are troubling. If it’s true that any legislators accepted gifts without reporting them, they should correct that reporting mistake.”