Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Guest Opinion: 'Porngate' is one hot mess

Matthew T. Mangino
Guest Opinion, Delaware County Daily Times
January 3, 2016

           Not long ago, I called an assistant prosecutor in a small, rural county in Missouri about an old warrant issued for one of my clients. Before I could get my question out he wanted to talk about ‘Porngate.’  He told me every morning he gets on the Internet to read the latest twists and turns in the Kathleen Kane saga.  He has had a lot to read about since our conversation.
            Pennsylvania is a mess and things are not getting better.  Another Supreme Court justice has been swept into the fray.  Justice Michael Eakin was suspended by the Judicial Conduct Board for his exchange of pornographic and insensitive emails.
            That is the same board that had its chief counsel recuse himself from the Eakin case because he failed to reveal that he was chums with the justice; and the same board the Supreme Court blunderingly tried to pack with an ally of Eakin prior to the suspension hearing.
            However, that is a side show to the main event.  Attorney General Kathleen Kane is under two sets of indictment.  Her law license has been suspended and her release of pornographic emails exchanged among government officials has resulted in the resignation of one Supreme Court justice, the suspension of another, the resignation of the Secretary of Environmental Resources and a member the Board of Probation and Parole.
            Kane, without a license to practice law, appointed the former attorney general of Maryland Doug Gansler as a special prosecutor to weed out pornography in all state government offices.  Her authority to do so--even with a law license--is in question and Gansler’s firm charging about $880 an hour has made even the few Kane supporters out there a little queasy.
            Then it’s revealed that Kane’s twin sister--who works in the AG’s office--has sent and received inappropriate emails.  There will be no disciple for Kane’s sister.  Although other members of the AG’s staff were disciplined for similar conduct--you can’t make this stuff up.
            This whole thing started when Kathleen Kane campaigned on an issue that resonated with Pennsylvania voters--did the AG’s office drag its feet on the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky investigation to shield the former AG--Tom Corbett--during his campaign for governor.       Kane’s investigation of the investigation revealed no wrong doing, but it sure did make some people mad.
            The man who headed up the Sandusky investigation, Frank Fina, quietly went about trying to discredit Kane.  He found a willing partner, his new boss the district attorney of Philadelphia Seth Williams.  Fina and Williams publicly challenged Kane’s decision to drop a corruption prosecution.  The Philly DA refiled the charges.
            Then there was the knife wielding senior judge Barry Feudale who presided over the statewide grand jury that investigated Sandusky. His impartiality was challenged by Kane.  Feudale went to media and he included none other than Mr. Fina on his emails.  The chief justice revoked Feudale’s senior status.
            Amid growing public concern over Fina’s involvement in Porngate, Williams transferred Fina from criminal trials to civil a much less glamorous position.  The calls for Fina’s termination continue.
            Amid all this, the Pennsylvania legislature is pursuing Kane’s removal. This is a body that has had at least 20 members convicted of crimes in the last 15 years.  A hearing in the Senate has been scheduled for January 12, 2016.
            Oh, and don’t forget that the Governor and legislature have not agreed on a budget for going on six-months. As the GOP members of the House grumble about unseating the speaker of the house, school districts across the state need to borrow money to keep our children in class.     Instead of addressing the growing financial crisis in this state, the legislature will seek to unseat the lamest of lame-duck officials in Pennsylvania history.
            House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) was one of the prosecutors in the impeachment of Justice Rolf Larsen, the last impeachment in Pennsylvania.  “People thought it was very serious business,” he said. Kane is not subject to impeachment, but rather an obscure constitutional provision known as direct removal.
             According to The PLS Reporter, Dermody reflected on his impeachment work, “it is important to ensure that the process does not come down to political bickering and that, due to the nature of impeachment as a political trial, it is a process used only when absolutely necessary.”

(Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino)

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