Attorney General Kathleen Kane (AP Photo)
Attorney General Kathleen Kane argued, as far back as seven months ago, that a political corruption investigation her office shuttered had been presented to federal prosecutors, who then passed on the case, recently unsealed documents outlining the investigation indicate.
Kane’s office made the assertion in a filing from early October, which claims that her office met with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the FBI about a sting operation that allegedly caught five state officials accepting bribes on audio and video tape, but federal authorities passed on the case.
“OAG early on met with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the FBI to determine what, if any, interest they had in adopting the corruption investigation or using [defendant Tyron] Ali as an informant in other investigations,” Kane said in the filing. “Ultimately, federal authorities advised OAG that they did not want to adopt the pending corruption case and had no interest in utilizing the informant’s cooperation at the present time.”
Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Todd A. Hoover, who released the documents April 10, however, made no ruling on the validity of Kane’s assertions.
“For the instant petition and motion, we need not consider or resolve factual disputes, or reach conclusions, as to what the filings may indicate,” Hoover said in a motion issued April 10, which dealt solely with whether to unseal the documents.
Hoover released nearly 60 documents related to the probe. The unsealed filings, which are dated as far back as April 2009, outline the case against defendant Ali, who was the informant who helped prosecutors build the corruption case. The documents also show Ali’s attempts to have the charges against him dropped under a cooperation agreement, and the dispute as to whether the court documents should be unsealed.
On March 17, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Kane’s office shut down a corruption investigation that reportedly included four members of Philadelphia’s delegation in the state House of Representatives accepting payments ranging from $500 to $2,000. The lawmakers, all Democrats, allegedly accepted multiple payments with totals ranging from $1,500 to $7,650, the Inquirer reported. A fifth elected official, a former Traffic Court judge, allegedly accepted a bracelet as a gift from the lobbyist, the newspaper reported.
The following day, Kane held a press conference saying that she dropped the investigation because it became “nonprosecutable” once charges were dismissed against the lead informant in the case. She said dismissing the charges fatally tainted the witness’s credibility and jeopardized the use of 113 audio and video recordings of officials allegedly accepting the money. Kane also said that the investigation was mismanaged, and that her office found evidence of racial targeting.
At the press conference, Kane also said that she brought the case to federal authorities who agreed that the case was fatally damaged.
However, that assertion has since been questioned by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who reportedly told the Inquirer that federal prosecutors never said the case was too weak to prosecute.
The Inquirer also reported that Edward J. Hanko, the special agent in charge of the Philadelphia division, said the FBI made no judgment about the probe.
An FBI spokeswoman, speaking on behalf of Hanko, confirmed that Hanko had told the Inquirer that the FBI made no judgment about the probe, but she declined to comment further.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment for this story; however, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen told the Inquirer: “We do not comment on the existence or nonexistence of a federal investigation, and likewise, we do not comment on investigations that are being handled by other prosecutorial agencies.”
According to the recently unsealed filings, the Attorney General’s Office filed to arraign Ali on numerous charges stemming from his operation of a child care center and alleged mishandling of funds meant for low-income children and adults in October 2009.
From January 2010 through October 2012, the court granted numerous continuances in the case, but in September 2013, Ali filed a motion seeking to have the charges against him dropped. In the motion, he sought to disqualify Kane due to an alleged conflict of interest, asserting that an unsuccessful candidate who Ali had improperly given money to later became employed in Kane’s campaign staff when she ran for office.
Ali’s filings also asserted that in November 2012, former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, who was a leading prosecutor in the probe, executed a cooperation agreement, which provided for the dismissal of all the charges at a time “mutually agreeable” to the parties, the filings showed.
The Attorney General’s Office countered Ali’s motions, denying any conflict of interest, and argued that Kane had neither a close nor personal relationship with the unsuccessful candidate Ali identified, and that the unsuccessful candidate had stopped working at her office.
Kane further contended that Ali had become uncooperative in the probe, and that his cooperation was key to the case. One of the unsealed filings included a letter that senior executive deputy attorney general, Linda Dale Hoffa, sent Ali’s attorney, Robert Levant of Levant Martin, in September, which said that if Ali did not cooperate he would be deemed in breach of the cooperation agreement and would be prosecuted.
In November, however, the parties agreed to enter nolle prosequi for all the charges Ali faced.
According to Matthew T. Mangino, a former district attorney for Lawrence County and now a practicing criminal defense attorney, as it stands now, the case is definitely not prosecutable.
“The attorney general believed that dismissing all the pending charges on Ali was kind of a death knell for the case, which is something that can be brought up during the course of a trial. But on the other hand there are wires. He was wearing a wire, so you have recorded statements from targets,” Mangino said. “The bottom line is, any chance of viability in this case has long since gone with all the publicity.”
Levant declined to comment for the story.
Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI. •