Philly DA criticizes Kane’s handling of sting case

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) – District Attorney Seth Williams is criticizing Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to scuttle a sting operation in which eight people – including four Democratic state lawmakers – were allegedly caught on recordings accepting money or gifts.

Williams questions Kane’s decision – and defends two investigators who worked on the probe for the attorney general’s office before going to work for Williams – in an opinion piece written for the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the newspaper reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1lckxxT ).

Williams, a Black Democrat, denies Frank Fina, the chief deputy attorney general who led the investigation, and Claude Thomas, the lead investigator, were motivated by race in targeting the Black lawmakers as Kane has suggested.

kathleen Kane

Kathleen Kane

Kane, a White Democrat, cited concerns over racism and other factors in shutting down the investigation, which was begun under now-Gov. Tom Corbett and continued under her immediate predecessor, Linda Kelly, both Republicans.

“I am offended,” Williams wrote. “I have seen racism. I know what it looks like. This isn’t it.”

Williams specifically defended Thomas who was accused by Kane of targeting Black legislative caucus members to the exclusion of others during the investigation.

“Like me, he is a Black man,” Williams wrote. “He has absolutely, unequivocally denied that he was asked to, or agreed to, engage in such reprehensible conduct. I believe he is telling the truth.”

Thomas also sent a statement to the newspaper denying any race-based targeting of the public officials.

Kane’s first deputy attorney general, Adrian R. King Jr., declined comment on Williams’ opinion piece.

Kane met with the newspaper’s editorial board on Thursday, but declined comment on the advice of her attorney, Richard Sprague, whom she hired to represent her in possible defamation lawsuits against the newspaper and others who have criticized her decision.

In a separate opinion piece that will also run Sunday, Fina mocks Kane for lawyering up before meeting with the newspaper.

“I have not retained an attorney to advise me to speak, or to remain silent,” Fina writes. “I am an attorney.”

Kane has acknowledged about eight people took money that totaled just over $20,000. Despite that, Kane has argued that an undercover informant was given a deal to avoid prosecution so lenient that it would have undermined his credibility. Williams disagrees with that, too.

“The Attorney General of Pennsylvania drops a case supported by hundreds of hours of devastating tapes because the main witness got a deal on a bunch of government fraud charges. As a DA, I think this might be the most disturbing aspect of the whole sordid spectacle,” Williams writes. “You don’t have to be a prosecutor to know this is how it’s done.”

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Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com

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