HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A county prosecutor is at least temporarily blocked from taking any action on a grand jury recommendation that Attorney General Kathleen Kane be charged criminally in an investigation of alleged leaks of secret investigative material by her office, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said in an order unsealed Thursday.
The state high court justices took the action while they prepare to hear arguments on March 11 on Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s challenge to the legality of the special prosecutor involved in the investigation of her office.
Kane’s lawyers had sought the halt to the case against her.
The revelation came a day after the high court released 80 pages of records showing that a grand jury last month had recommended that Kane be charged with perjury, false swearing, official oppression and obstruction.
The records also showed that the judge supervising the grand jury had sent the case to the district attorney in Montgomery County to decide whether to file charges against Kane. The Montgomery County district attorney, Risa Ferman, has not spoken publicly about the matter and it is not clear whether she will obey the order.
Kane, a former prosecutor in Lackawanna County, took office in 2013 as the first woman and first Democrat elected as state attorney general.
She has not been charged.
She has said that she did nothing wrong, although she also has acknowledged that her office provided records about a 2009 investigation by Kane’s Republican predecessors of the then-president of the Philadelphia NAACP to the Philadelphia Daily News.
The discovery that those records had become public motivated the May 29 appointment of special prosecutor Thomas Carluccio by Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter, who supervises the statewide grand jury in eastern Pennsylvania.
The existence of the investigation first became public in a Philadelphia Inquirer report in September citing unnamed sources.
However, the courts did not acknowledge the investigation until Wednesday, when it released the records about the grand jury investigation in connection with Kane’s request to the Supreme Court to remove Carluccio.
Kane’s lawyers argue that Carpenter had no legal authority to appoint a special prosecutor and that he violated the separation of powers doctrine in the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Carpenter told the high court in a Dec. 30 opinion that there was “strong precedent” of grand jury judges appointing special prosecutors to look into allegations of leaks and that he had no alternative, given that he believed the leak came from the attorney general’s office.
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