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Politics & Government

Pennsylvania Attorney General Charged With 2nd Perjury Count

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Matt Rourke
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Prosecutors added a new perjury count and other criminal charges Thursday against Pennsylvania's attorney general, saying they found a signed document that contradicts her claims she never agreed to maintain secrecy of a grand jury investigation in 2009, before she took office.

The Montgomery County district attorney charged Kathleen Kane with felony perjury and two misdemeanors — false swearing and obstruction — based on a signed secrecy oath she signed shortly after taking office in early 2013.

Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected attorney general in Pennsylvania, was previously charged with perjury, conspiracy and other offenses. Prosecutors said she leaked secret grand jury information about a 2009 investigation to a newspaper and then lied about it.

An affidavit filed by a county detective said Kane has repeatedly said she did not swear to keep secret the 2009 grand jury information about a former head of the NAACP in Philadelphia.

But the district attorney's office said her signed oath was recovered during a search of her Harrisburg offices on Sept. 17, contradicting her claims that no such document existed.

"Kane perpetuated this falsehood not just before (a) grand jury, but also in legal filings before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and to the people of Pennsylvania through privately retained representatives," wrote Montgomery County Detective Paul Michael Bradbury, who attached a photocopy of the one-paragraph oath to the affidavit.

Court officials said her preliminary arraignment was tentatively scheduled for Thursday afternoon at a court in Collegeville, 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Kane's criminal defense attorney, Gerald Shargel, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. A spokesman for Kane's office referred questions about the latest charges to her personal attorneys.

Authorities say Kane and other top aides were compelled to sign the secrecy oath and three others just like it that applied to other grand jury panels to participate in a transition meeting on Jan. 17, 2013, that concerned the office's investigations.

Bradbury said agents learned about the existence of the signed secrecy oaths only after arresting her Aug. 6 over leaks to the Philadelphia Daily News last year.

The arrest affidavit said Kane testified before a grand jury in November 2014 that she was not sworn to secrecy for the 2009 grand jury.

Kane and her top aides, she told the grand jury, "all knew that we were not sworn into a 2009 grand jury. I was a stay at home mom at the time. ... None of us were sworn into that grand jury."

Her attorneys also filed a document with the state Supreme Court that said she was not sworn to secrecy for the 2009 grand jury, Bradbury wrote. And in January, Bradbury wrote, Kane's then-attorney Lanny Davis said in a news release that she "never took an oath of secrecy regarding that 2009 grand jury."

A district judge determined there was sufficient evidence to send previously filed charges of perjury, false swearing, obstruction, official oppression and conspiracy to county court for trial. If she is convicted of either perjury charge, she would be ineligible to hold office.

Kane's attorneys have argued in a court filing that she only authorized the release of nonsecret information "relating to a pattern of unjustifiable selective prosecution or nonprosecution" at the attorney general's office before she took the reins.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week issued a temporary suspension of Kane's law license that will take effect later this month.

Kane said last week she believes the suspension could prevent her from running for a second term next year, based on a provision of the state constitution that requires the attorney general to be a member of the bar.

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