Before her law license suspension went into effect, Attorney General Kathleen Kane ordered her office to look through emails linked to Judge Barry Feudale, going back more than a decade, according to reports from two different PA newspapers.
The Attorney General’s office found a way to access Feudale’s private messages to other judges, prosecutors and reporters, before offering the emails to the media, the Inquirer reported.
The emails included an exchange between the judge, his personal lawyers and two Inquirer reporters, before offering the emails to the media.
“I know of no involvement of anyone from the Attorney General’s office in obtaining or distributing” Feudale’s emails, Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said, though he admitted the OAG “may have provided” some of the emails to judicial regulators and disciplinary agencies.
It seems Feudale has now become collateral damage in Kane’s long-running campaign against Frank Fina, a former prosecutor for the AG’s office, after presiding over several key grand juries during Fina’s time in Harrisburg.
Several media outlets have reported they have copies of Feudale’s emails, with the Inquirer pointing the finger at Ken Smukler, a political consultant for Kane.
“It’s none of your business how I get my information and how I disseminate information,” Smukler told Steve Esack of the Morning Call.
Before Kane lost her law license, she ordered agents Eric and Avril Eklund, husband and wife, to review closed grand jury cases from 1981 to 2013, the Morning Call reported. “The Eklunds answer only to Kane and her chief of staff,” Jonathan Duecker, the report states.
Their job was inadvertently simplified by Feudale, as he used a laptop issued by the OAG for official grand juries for official and private communications.
“I am outraged by the invasion of my privacy,” Feudale said, reacting to the news. “It shouldn’t happen to anybody. It not only upsets me, it saddens me.”
The plot thickens.
In April 2013, Feudale returned to his Strawberry Square chambers – in the same building as the OAG – after an out-of-state trip to find three files missing from his desk. After a short investigation, Capitol Police called Feudale to say they had been told to drop the investigation.
For his part, Feudale admitted he used pretty weak security measures – he left a spare key to his chambers in the base of a flag-holder in the grand jury room and gave his email password to two grand jury secretaries – both employees of the Attorney General’s office.
Feudale was removed from his post in May 2013.
UPDATE: The Attorney General released the following response which is presented below in full:
Yesterday the Philadelphia Inquirer published a report concerning emails sent and received from the private email account of Judge Barry F. Feudale.
Metadata from the Office of Attorney General’s servers confirm the following:
- These emails are currently housed on Office of Attorney General servers. Any implication that the OAG is in possession of emails from Judge Feudale’s personal email account that are not currently on OAG servers is false.
- Any implication that these emails are on OAG servers by any other means than the ordinary course of business is, again, false.
Judge Feudale and the Philadelphia Inquirer reporters chose to be the first to discuss these emails in public. Accordingly, today I am releasing these emails so that members of the public will be able to make their own judgment.
Contrary to impressions created by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s story that Judge Feudale was concerned with the law or his commitment to secrecy, make no mistake: Judge Feudale’s overriding concern was how to leak sealed Supreme Court documents without getting caught.
The following are email passages the Philadelphia Inquirer chose not to quote in its story:
Email to Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Craig McCoy from Barry F. Feudale dated July 8, 2013
Subject: “Re: nice meeting you “two” Craig forwad this to Angela I don’t have her email handy”
“I am also considering giving you the brief Order initialy removing me and the Order denying reconsideration with explanation why I was removed…Since…you and Angela seem to be aware of the content of such (I believe you said it, or parts of it was read to you and or parts of the Application for a Writ of Prohibition,) it seems to not in the interest of transparency and completeness to not “confirm” what was said in the order. My Problem is that the Application for a writ was sealed (as are all Kings Bench matters) so I need both your assurance it will only be used as background and you will not reveal me as a source of such.” (emphasis added)
Email to Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Angela Couloumbis and Craig McCoy from Barry F. Feudale dated July 14, 2013
Subject: “Fw: portrait.final comments
“As I indicated I did not think Kane would respond. I suspect her strategy is to wait for the article, then claim I am a knife wielding disgruntled former Grand Jury Judge who has violated secrecy of Grand Jury proceedings as well ignoring an unclear sealing of Application for writ and various responses. I have been advised by more than one to keep my mouth shut. While I know I did not violate secrecy she will claim such. Secrecy is something she will use or abuse as it suits her purposes. As to the sealing of the Writ etc., I am less clear…
“Bottom line “I will not be intimidated by anyone. The price (even if it means I am done working as A Judge) of silence is too high….”
The seriousness of this reckless breach of sealed Supreme Court documents, orchestrated by the presiding judge of a state investigative grand jury, with attorneys and the very reporters who have covered some of the Sandusky, Computergate, and Bonusgate cases, cannot be overstated. The OAG is currently litigating post-conviction motions involving these cases.
I have instructed my office to send a complete set of these emails to the Judicial Conduct Board.