Skip to comments.Philly DA Blows the Whistle on Pennsylvania’s State AG
Posted on 03/23/2014 6:33:18 PM PDT by smoothsailing
MARCH 23, 2014 6:45 PM
Philadelphia DA Seth Williams (left) has slammed Pa. AG Kathleen Kane
Prosecutors almost never go to war against each other. But in Pennsylvania, Democratic attorney general Kathleen Kane is being brutally criticized by Seth Williams, Philadelphias district attorney and a fellow Democrat. Williams is upset that last year one of Kanes first acts in office was to decline to prosecute four Philadelphia state legislators and other government officials. In a sting operation, all had been caught accepting cash or Tiffany jewelry in exchange for votes or favors. Kane, who is white, has defended herself, saying that the investigation was badly managed and tainted by racism. She claims the criticism comes from what she calls the Good Ol Boys Club. Williams, who is African American, has shot back: I have seen racism. I know what it looks like. This isnt it.
The sting operation followed pretty much the same playbook as the federal Abscam investigation of the 1970s. Begun in 2010, the Philly probe was conducted under Kanes three immediate predecessors as attorney general, and it resulted in more than 400 hours of video and audio recordings. Tyron B. Ali, a lobbyist originally from Trinidad, served as the undercover agent; after he was charged with fraud, he agreed to wear a wire in exchange for lenient treatment. Word of his cash offers eventually got around and prompted some elected officials to call him first. Sources with knowledge of the sting said the investigation made financial pitches to both Republicans and Democrats, but only Democrats accepted the payments, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week.
Attorney General Kane inherited the investigation when she took office in January 2013. She told the Inquirer that she stopped it without filing any charges because it was poorly conceived, badly managed, and tainted by racism. She quoted Claude Thomas, the chief investigator in the case, as saying he had been ordered to target only members of the General Assemblys Black Caucus and to ignore potentially illegal acts by white members.
In response, Williams issued an angry statement and penned an op-ed in Sundays Inquirer. The notion that they would target anyone based on race is ridiculous, Williams said in a statement. I am confident they are not racist, and it is regrettable that the attorney general would casually throw around such an explosive accusation. Thomas, who is also African American, now works for Williams and denies he ever made such a statement.
What is clear is just how damning some of the collected evidence is. The Inquirer reported this exchange between Ali, the lobbyist, and state representative Vanessa Brown:
Ali went to Browns office and handed her an envelope with $2,000, according to people who have reviewed a transcript of a tape Ali made on that day.
As Brown accepted the money, they said, she put it in her purse and said: Yo, good looking and Ooowee. . . . Thank you twice.
After he gave Brown the money, Ali urged her to vote against a bill that would require voters to show identification at the polls, the sources said.
Kanes supporters say that federal law-enforcement officials she consulted believed the probe had suffered from a lack of quality control and could be viewed as entrapment. Is the acceptance of cash alarming? Absolutely, one person close to Kane told the Inquirer. But youve got to think: Ive got to try this case.
It certainly may have been politically awkward for Kane, as a Democrat, to prosecute only African-American defendants, but a conviction on something should have been a slam dunk. Even if prosecutors couldnt prove a quid pro quo, it is illegal for politicians to accept payments to enrich themselves and also illegal not to report the income. Further, the prosecutors in this case have a sterling track record in securing convictions against the leadership of both parties in the legislature, winning 21 convictions in the 2010 Bonusgate scandal, which involved illegal payments to legislative staffers who performed political work. All of those convicted were white.
Kane has declined to answer detailed questions about why she dropped the investigation. Her critics, she says, are playing political games to discredit me in order to fulfill their own selfish and improper agenda. When she met with Inquirer editors last Thursday, she brought her personal attorney and on his advice declined to answer any questions after the meeting. Her attorney says she may file a defamation suit against the paper, a ploy frequently used by public figures to intimidate journalists.
Williams says he is tired of Kanes escalating excuses. He points out that when she took office, the files on the probe were with federal prosecutors who hadnt yet concluded whether they wanted to pursue their own case. All she had to do was leave the investigation in the hands of federal authorities, Williams wrote in Sundays Inquirer. But she didnt do that. Instead, she asked for the files back. And then, after going out of the way to reclaim the investigation, she shut it down.
One bit player in the drama, who had dealings with Ali and was shocked to learn later that Ali was a government agent, says the whole thing reminds him of a John Grisham novel. My vote is for House of Cards. And from what we know so far, it shouldnt be too hard to start matching up some of the Philadelphia players with their dramatic counterparts in the Netflix series.
John Fund is a national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.
Sounds to me like she got the word from Holder to drop it
Her chief "source" has denied the targeting claims, and repudiated several statements attributed to him by Kane.
Williams has the authority to convene a special investigative Grand Jury within his jurisdiction. He should do so, and Kane should be the target of his probe.
The Governor also needs to get legislative action. Under existing PA statute, only the Attorney General can call a multi-county investigative Grand Jury. That needs to be changed so that the Governor can also call such investigations under his own authority, especially in states such as PA, where the attorney general is not part of the Executive. It's time to find out why Kane took this probe out of Federal jurisdiction and then so publicly deep-sixed the whole affair, especially given that the investigators' past track record for bringing in corruption convictions -- against both parties -- was so good.
Can you spell ACCOMPLICE?
Time to file charges against her for malfeasance and corruption. Let’s see where those chips fall.
Wouldn’t surprise me. She also refuses to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Good for DA Williams.
It would be interesting to know if Kane is close in any way to Eric Holder.
This is reminiscent of what Holder did with the New Black Panther turkeys in the Philadelphia voter intimidation case but this seems more serious to me.
Both Kane and Holder are RATS that only enforce laws they see fit to enforce and they seem to not enforce those laws when other RATS and/or minorities are involved.
She’s an Eric Holder wannabe. What a disgusting excuse for an AG she is.
My guess is Kane and Holder are in routine contact with each other. Vile lawless lowlifes, both of them.
i am assuming nobody cried racism in this instance...
You’re absolutely right, they’re both scum.
Bossy will be looking for an AG, and understands from prior experience the value of having a partisan half-wit as the figurehead at DOJ, while some hand-picked Arkansas subaltern runs the actual show.
Can you spell ACCOMPLICE?
Yes, and also COMPLICITY!
Yep. Absolutely corrupt.
Makes sense.You figure she’s being groomed or is PIAPS just keeping an eye on her at this point?
Yep, this comes from on high, as a prosecution would make Holder's efforts to throw sand in the gears of Voter ID more suspect.
Dropping the ball on this case, refusing to defend the Commonwealth’s DOMA against the ACLU...what exactly does this AG DO?
She works for Holder.