HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania's embattled attorney general got part of what she wanted when court officials unsealed papers in which she accuses two former state prosecutors of concocting the criminal case against her because she was threatening to reveal their proclivity for pornography.
But it is not clear how it will help Kathleen Kane fight the charges against her.
For now, the documents contain the strongest line of attack yet from Kane on the alleged conspiracy against her and represent progress, if not victory, for her.
"It certainly answers her call to have more of the material released," said office spokesman Chuck Ardo.
The roughly 1,000 pages that were unsealed Wednesday is not everything she wants to release, however. Her office has more emails, but wants clearance from the courts to avoid any perception that it is retaliating against prosecution witnesses who might be among the many current or former employees who sent or received the pornography, Ardo said.
Ardo also said there are other documents Kane wants to become public, but they are not in her possession. He would not describe them or say which government agency possesses them because they may be subject to grand jury secrecy laws, he said.
In any event, questions persist as to whether the conspiracy argument being advanced by Kane can help her in court.
"I don't see how any of this stuff about porn or the reasons why investigations were launched has anything to do with the charges against her," said L. George Parry, a Philadelphia lawyer in private practice who is a former city and federal prosecutor. "It's totally irrelevant. I'd be surprised if a judge let it in."
In a November motion to the state Supreme Court seeking to stop the investigation, Kane's lawyers argued that former state prosecutors Frank Fina and Marc Costanzo "corruptly manufactured" the grand jury investigation to protect their jobs and reputations after she found they had been sending or receiving pornographic emails on their office computers.
The investigation and the grand jury judge's order protecting witnesses from retaliation "are now preventing Attorney General Kane from investigating and potentially prosecuting Fina and Costanzo," her lawyers wrote in the newly unsealed filing. Fina and Costanzo, her lawyers said, may have criminally misled the grand jury judge about the nature of their emails that they did not want Kane to release.
The documents include scores of emailed images of nude or scantily clad women, some involving sex acts, distributed among prosecutors and agents who were employees of the office at the time. Others had jokes that could be viewed as offensive.
The emails were discovered as part of Kane's inquiry into how the office handled the Fina-led investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal at Penn State between 2008 and 2011.
Kane, who took office in 2013, released several pornographic emails last year, setting off a wave of firings and resignations, including a state Supreme Court justice. Fina and Costanzo were not identified as senders or receivers of those emails.
Fina and Costanzo both declined comment through the Philadelphia district attorney's office, where both currently work.
The grand jury investigation went ahead, and Montgomery County prosecutors charged Kane on Aug. 6 for allegedly leaking investigative materials to the Philadelphia Daily News and then lying about it.
Prosecutors said Kane leaked the information to smear Fina and Costanzo, who she believed had provided information for a March 2014 story in The Philadelphia Inquirer that revealed her decision not to pursue charges in a separate corruption case.
Kane has said she's done nothing wrong.
Fina and Costanzo last year sought an investigation into the alleged leak to the Daily News. The information involved a 2009 grand jury investigation into the former head of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, who was never charged.
The Daily News' article about the 2009 investigation cites a document in which the lead investigator told a superior that "he was taken off the case after Fina and Costanzo were told about the probe" and that "criminal activity was just ignored."
AP reporters Michael Sisak in Philadelphia and Peter Jackson in Harrisburg contributed to this report.