Former AG Cohen sheds light into Kane’s ‘tense’ environment

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- As Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) plans to fight the criminal charges levied against her Thursday, the memories of what happened in the state's attorney general's office 20 years ago are fresh in the mind of Walter Cohen.

In 1995, then-attorney general Ernie Preate (R) pled guilty to taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions. He resigned and went to prison the same day, leaving his first deputy at the time, Walter Cohen, in charge.

"I'm sure it's a very tense environment (in that office)," Cohen told FOX43 on Thursday, just hours after Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman charged Kane with nine counts of crimes, including perjury, obstruction of justice, false swearing, and official oppression.

"I assume it's difficult for people in that office to deal with the fact their boss is under criminal indictment," Cohen added, "when what they do, is charge people themselves."

Kane, the first woman and elected-Democrat to serve as attorney general, joins Preate as the only two to face criminal charges.

Walter Cohen served as attorney general from June 1995 to October 1995 when Governor Tom Ridge appointed Tom Corbett to the office. Should Kane resign, current first deputy Bruce Beemer would assume the role as interim attorney general. Kane insists she plans to fight the charges against her, saying in a statement Thursday, "A resignation would be an admission of guilt and I'm not guilty."

"I think in this instance her failure to listen to any of her most trusted people is what did her in," Cohen said. "She had this meeting with her five deputies, it's all laid out (in the grand jury presentment), and they all told her, "You can't do this."

"She doesn't listen to advice. That's her biggest problem."

As Kane prepares to prove her innocence, that she did not knowingly give secret grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News in 2014, a litany of politicians in Harrisburg -- including Governor Tom Wolf (D) -- are calling for the Attorney General to resign.

Ernie Preate resigned immediately 20 years ago, Cohen says. Thursday's proceedings have brought memories from that period of his career back to the forefront. Cohen, who still lives in Harrisburg working as a partner at a private law firm, maintains the longer Kane's legal proceedings drag on, the more uncomfortable the attorney general's office may get.

"The office is bigger than the attorney general," he said. "It survived 20 years ago and it will survive this and it will continue on.

"But it doesn't mean it will be a pleasant environment to work in."