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Kane Halts Sting Operation

Inquirer cover 3.16.14

On Sunday morning, The Philadelphia Inquirer unveiled that four State Reps. were implicated in a sting operation designed to catch lawmakers accepting bribes — but none of would be charged.

That is because Attorney General Kathleen Kane called off the investigation in 2013, saying that it was “poorly conceived, badly managed, and tainted by racism,” the Inquirer reports.

The operation began in 2010 under then-Attorney General Tom Corbett, and then continued when William Ryan and Linda Kelly took over after he left to assume the role of Governor: all three Republicans.

Kane took office in 2013 and subsequently shut down the operation less than a month after her inauguration. But that was not before both audio and video evidence was collected.

According to the investigation, State Rep. Ronald G. Waters (D-Philadelphia) reportedly accepted $7,650 in bribes, while State Rep. Vanessa Brown (D-Philadelphia) accepted $4,000, State Rep. Michelle Brownlee accepted $3,500 (D-Philadelphia), and State Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia) accepted $1,500. Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes was also implicated for accepting a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet. All those allegedly accused are African American and members of the Democratic Party.

Tynes admitted to accepting the bribe, but none of the State Reps. admitted or commented on the allegations.

The undercover operative was “a little-known lobbyist,” Tyron B. Ali, who had previously been arrested and convicted of fraud to the tune of $430,000. The investigation stated that Ali would dole out bribes in order to buy votes from lawmakers. Ali gave Brown $2,000 as a way to ensure that she would vote against a voter ID bill that was being passed in the House.

This lone example seems odd, however, considering that every House Rep. voted against the bill, so there is no reason to assume that Brown would not have voted that way regardless.

But Kane’s dropping of the case angered prosecutor Frank G. Fina, who said that he was taken aback by Kane’s allegations of racism driving the case. The Inquirer described the relationship between Kane and Fina as “strained.”

Kane said that the Inquirer’s assertion of their relationship is incorrect.

“I do not have any animosity towards the lead prosecutor of this case,” Kane said. “I do not know the former prosecutor any more than I know the individuals targeted in this investigation. If the former prosecutor believes the case is strong enough to move forward, he currently has concurrent jurisdiction in public corruption matters.”

Kane released an extensive statement Sunday night, distancing herself and her administration from the investigation

“The allegations made by several cowardly anonymous sources in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer paint an inaccurate and sensational version of the details and timeline of events related to Case File No. 36-622. The real truth is that this investigation was not only deeply flawed, but unraveled long before I was elected and then took the oath of office.

“The majority of the work, including more than 91 percent of the recordings by a confidential informant, took place 18 months prior to my inauguration, through three former Attorneys General. Additionally, when prosecutors dismissed more than 2,000 serious charges of fraud that alleged their informant stole $430,000 meant for poor children and seniors, they crippled the chance of this case succeeding in prosecution.  Despite the case originating in 2010, this agreement to drop the charges was signed just 24 days after I was elected and weeks before I was sworn in.

“After a detailed review, we learned even more disturbing information regarding this case, including that there may have been a racial focus to the targets of the investigation, improper reporting, inadequate resources and inadmissible evidence.

“In addition, extremely alarming flaws were found in the management of the prosecution, including the failure of prosecutors to disclose the investigation to key immediate supervisors. Then-Chief of Staff Bruce Beemer was never informed of the investigation until I first learned of it on Jan. 17, 2013.”

The Inquirer did state in their article that it “pieced together the story of the aborted investigation from interviews with  more than a dozen people familiar with different aspects of the inquiry – and with widely differing opinions of it.”

It should also be mentioned that the Senior Counsel to the Attorney General stated that it was “not advisable or warranted” to prosecute the case further. The Counsel also stated that no evidence existed outside of the audio collected, and “adequate resources were not dedicated to the investigation.”

Moreover, “the evidence developed was inconsistent, underdeveloped and lacked focus.  More importantly, the evidence failed to establish the critical criminal element of ‘quid pro quo’ or cash payments directly in exchange for official action.”

The report also stated that “the OAG Agent indicated that he was instructed by his supervising OAG Attorney to focus only on members of the General Assembly’s Black Caucus and that when he had information of potentially illegal acts by white members of the General Assembly he was specifically told not to pursue it.”

Out of the 113 tapes that Ali submitted as evidence, 108 of them were of African American targets.

23 Responses

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  2. After reading various accounts of this story, it seems that in the struggle against political corruption, AG Kane has chosen to be part of the problem.

  3. I agree with Marie; there is no reason not to prosecute if the data are extant [and not denied explicitly by the potentially-accused].

    AG-Kane should let the factfinders assess credibility [including insertion of that ubiquitous-“out” of the Dems: “racism!” and the “dealmaking” component].

    She should not have rejected the case against fellow-Dems peremptorily.

  4. I agree with Marie; there is no reason not to prosecute if the data are extant [and not denied explicitly by the potentially-accused].

    AG-Kane should let the factfinders assess credibility [including insertion of that ubiquitous-“out” of the Dems: “racism!” and the “dealmaking” component], instead of simply rejecting the case peremptorily.

  5. Kathleen3, you nailed it. This story REINFORCES rather than refutes the growing narrative that everything noteworthy Kane does is for political reasons, not for defending Pennsylvanians or the PA Constitution.

    Brad, whatever you say, the fact that this was in the Inquirer makes it all the more sweeter and legit in many’s minds b/c of the target.

  6. It’s “racist” to charge corrupted Black representatives?

    My suggestion is a thorough investigation be conducted on the Caucasian, Kathleen Kane. This woman has been surrounded by controversy from the day she took office.

    “Where there is smoke there is fire.” There is nothing “racist” in thoroughly checking out the smoke that consistently surrounds Kane.

  7. I just read today’s articles in the Inquirer on the informant investigation of Legislators this morning 3/17/2014.

    In Attorney General Kane’s AP Statement she essentially claims the case was flawed by the fact that the Mr. Ali, the informant was granted a pass (immunity in a signed agreement before she took office) on almost $500,000 in various frauds against several charities and others.

    The former Attorney generals prior to her election solicited the informant to connect 5 State Legislators from Philadelphia (all of who are black and democrats) and “supposedly” (a fact not established in a court of law) recorded conversations that showed the legislators to have taken bribes. Then before she took office gave him immunity. The amount alleged in all 5 cases seems to be under “$22,000 total for all alleged bribes to the legislators. Thus Mr. Ali walks on a major bribery case after being induced to probe the legislator’s ability to be bribed.

    According to Kane, to establish the crimes in court the informant’s cooperation is needed to verify the information alleged in the article. The testimony has been compromised because the plea agreement was given prior to testimony and she had no part in the investigations at all. Those who did were not retained and went to work for the Philly DA Seth Williams. Attorney General Kane asserts that if the case is so good and she is wrong those accusing her should prove her decision that the case is weak by prosecuting it themselves under DA Williams (their new employer) under their co-jurisdictional role as the crimes took place in their jurisdiction.

    According to the Inquirer in their article today when asked about prosecuting DA Williams said when asked, “For one thing, Ali apparently had no legal obligation to testify against those he had taped because the charges against him had been dropped”. Later Williams said Kane who used essentially the same legal reasons was wrong.

    To my interpretation Williams was actually stating that Kane was wrong about the case being racially motivated – but his statement about the case not being worthy of prosecution by the premature granting of relief to Mr. Ali is exactly the same reasoning as Kane put forth (the deal was made before the testimony was given) and neither Mr. Williams nor Ms. Kane was a party to this premature bribe to Mr. Ali.

    The racial component may or may not be obvious to all and is arguable. The poor ability to prosecute is buried in one of the poorest writings I have ever seen in the Inquirer. The writing lacks clarity on the real issues and seems to be supporting a bias instead of just stating any facts about the viability of a prosecution in a court of law.

  8. “Tynes admitted to accepting the bribe…”

    So if there is someone admitting that he took a bribe, tell me again how this case is “flawed”? Why is this person not going to be prosecuted?

  9. Denial.
    I guarantee Kane’s office isn’t so naive. They know they screwed themselves here by being behind the story. Looks like a coverup and that beautiful front page is gonna make glossy mail art pop next time her name’s on the ballot.

  10. Let’s all take a deep breath and count to ten.
    For the first time in 32 years, the voters of PA in a landslide elected the first Democrat Attorney General because they mistrusted the actions of the party in power. As a result, Kane brought new eyes, ears and legal interpretations to the Office of Attorney General.
    The question is, why did Corbett start the Sting and why did Kelly not pull the trigger? Could this have been politically motivated and not based on the law? Philly retribution?
    Kane will spend most of her first four years correcting the abuse of her predecessors.

  11. That’s why you’re an apologist. They were just little bribes, right? Up arrow for her handling then? You bet.

  12. The article header also says: “failed to disclose lobbyist giving”
    That’s not that same as “taking a bribe to throw a case or a vote”. It almost sounds like a bookkeeping error.
    Also, the amounts are very small.

    Philly readers expect to see more zeros in the amounts for their corrupt officials. 🙂

  13. Try to see the forest through the trees. Here’s what most people walk away with: sympathetic Philadelphia newspaper prints above the fold that Kane has bribery recordings in hand but chooses to bury the cases.

  14. Based on what I just read, I couldn’t have voted for a conviction had I been on a jury. No sense in prosecuting a case you are bound to lose. Guilt or innocence is not the issue; PROVABLE guilt is.

  15. This is a rare down arrow for Kane’s politics. Good response, but to not be in front of this 100pt. font story will sting. Everyone is tired of Philly’s inbred corruption and because people don’t believe she’s got a tin ear, they’ll more likely believe the implication of the headline…that in some way she’s in on it.

  16. It is ridiculous to hear people attacking Kathleen Kane for being soft on corruption when she just sacked a member of her own party last week for allegedly engaging in illegal activities with public funds.

  17. So all these lawmakers get caught on tape taking bribes aka hard evidince and Kane simply says because they are all African-American it’s racist, care to prove that allegation? They had to target the group that their informant had relationships with and they had to use an informant who had committed a crime so they could have some leverage. Tyrone Ali got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and sold out his friends, the AG can’t pick who he has relationships with. If members of the Scottish Ancestry Caucus we’re taking bribes as a group would it be racisit to investigate them?

    There’s bad guys on both sides and I think people should be applauded for taking out the garbage in your own party. The people who are encouraging this are the worst, her saying racism is worth more than public officials taking cash on tape? Good to know where your loaylties are and it’s not to the people obviously.

  18. Best quote: “If the former prosecutor believes the case is strong enough to move forward, he currently has concurrent jurisdiction in public corruption matters.” Put up or shut up Mr. Fina.

  19. Brad Bumsted skillfully presents another view. I have to say that after reading this, it appears that my initial view that there was a political motivation was wrong. When one has made a mistake, it is best to admit it.

    It appears that AG Kane reviewed the case and used her judgment reasonably. I voted for Kathleen Kane because I thought she was a “prosecutor not a politician” and when I read the initial story I thought I had been wrong. I now think I have to revise my thinking again. Read Brad Bumsted well written summary of AG Kane’s reasons for dropping of this investigation. They seem to be prosecutorial rather than political.

    On the other hand, it seems “cash in an envelope” is accepted practice for some Democrats. I will note that page 1 paragraph 4 of Corbett indictment of Republicans describes $20,000,000 taxpayer dollars misdirected. It is, I think, something that Republicans have to keep in mind. The people they support and the people they vote, particularly, in leadership have not been held accountable, electorally, for misuse of this money. As for politicizing prosecutions, there is good reason to think that Tom Corbett gave the Senate a pass in Bonusgate investigation because he wanted their political support when he ran for Governor seems to be the obvious explanation. The $20 Million that House Republican Campaign Committee and Republican leadership misused and owes the taxpayer seems to cause no outrage among the Republican base.

    • “Fina, Blessington, and Costanzo were the same team that followed Corbett’s instructions to leave his close political allies in the State Senate Republican Caucus untouched in the bonusgate investigations as Charlie Thompson from the Patriot News outlined last year (Patriot News 2/27/13). In fact, these three supposed corruption busters actually turned away the tipster who eventually brought down State Senator Jane Orie and Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (2/21/13).” CasablancaPA SEND IN THE CLOWNS

  20. This is why Kane was long overdue in the AG’s office. The three previous office holders were incompetent. Sadly, they can’t be prosecuted for that.

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