What Kathleen Kane's legacy could be

By Brad Bumsted
April 09, 2016

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in Harrisburg.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane might end the year wearing an orange jump suit as a state inmate or celebrating an amazing turn-around of her fortunes with an acquittal in criminal court that proves her critics wrong.

Either way, the crowning achievement of her final months in office might be the no-holds-barred grand jury report detailing sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and a series of diocesan cover-ups in the Altoona-Johnstown region.

Don't be surprised if that investigation is expanded to other dioceses — if there's probable cause for search warrants established from 250 phone calls to a hotline established following the March 1 grand jury release.

When Kane began as attorney general in 2013, she resisted using grand juries, perhaps out of stubbornness, after criticizing former Attorney General Tom Corbett's lengthy investigation of serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky through use of a statewide grand jury. Sandusky is behind bars for life.

Professional prosecutors in her office persevered. She eventually relented and to her credit approved the use of the grand jury, perhaps because, in her mind, it was different from the Sandusky grand jury because no one was charged.

The report was historic. It laid out the abuse of hundreds of children by up to 50 priests over decades dating to World War II. It showed the institutional efforts to bury the allegations and, when necessary, pay millions of dollars in settlements.

Kane is Roman Catholic. She's placed child protection at the top of her agenda. I suspect there won't be a shortage of resources as she senses the public interest might be higher in this than most things she's done.

Indeed, uncovering priest abuse and other child sex crimes could be Kane's legacy. Especially if she beats the perjury charges in Montgomery County stemming from a grand jury leak. If true, that leak of secret documents by Kane was a malicious attempt to hurt a fellow prosecutor and resulted in damaging the reputation of a black leader who was reported to have been under investigation by state prosecutors even though he was never charged.

Kane, a Democrat, was the buzz at the Capitol after creating a new post of solicitor general and naming a Republican to fill it. Former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor is an experienced prosecutor. It's almost an affirmation that Kane, working with a suspended law license, can't perform effectively as Senate Republicans contended in a failed vote to oust her. Castor lost in November to Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele, who is prosecuting Kane. Castor will be her office adviser as she heads to trial on Aug. 8. He knows the Montgomery County court system as well as anyone.

But to think Castor and Kane still will be together in four months is a stretch. They're both headstrong with big egos. It's hard to see him taking orders he disagrees with. It's hard to see her being challenged by someone who knows what he's talking about.



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