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Attorney General Kane Op-Ed: Taxpayers Are The True Victims Of Dead Case

The thought of elected officials taking money and violating the public’s trust makes me sick.
The thought of elected officials taking money and violating the public’s trust makes me sick.

The public has every right to be mad about it. That is why I did not take lightly my decision not to revive a dead case involving a sting operation that targeted certain legislators.

The truth is that a secret deal struck weeks before I took office by former prosecutors with the lone confidential informant robbed you of justice and let the informant off the hook for more than 2,000 fraud and theft charges. Dismissing charges against the informant before testimony meant the Commonwealth lost the power to maintain full cooperation needed to prosecute.

I will never shy away from prosecuting public corruption. I stand strongly by my record – we have brought serious charges against ten members of my own party. But this case was bungled long before I took office.
Following a thorough review, there are several reasons why we could not revive the case:
The investigation was dormant and left for dead long before I took office. More than 90 percent of the recordings took place 18 months before I took office. I was the fourth Attorney General not to prosecute this case.

Two individuals reported separately to law enforcement the investigation's purposeful focus on minorities -- more evidence than we have in many sexual assault cases.

Statistical evidence substantiates an overwhelming focus on African-American targets. Of the 113 recordings, 95.5 percent were of African-American targets. Only 1.3 percent involved Caucasians. Defense attorneys would have had a field-day with this disparity in front of a jury.

Many traditional and necessary law enforcement tactics were not used to build a prosecutable case, such as: evidence of predication for those targeted so that individuals were not unfairly entrapped, evidence-corroborated recordings, subpoenas, sworn statements and using a grand jury to substantiate findings.

The investigation was further marred when prosecutors gave the informant the deal of the century 45 days before I took office – absolving the informant of more than 2,000 felony charges for defrauding taxpayer-funded programs intended to help poor children and seniors.

Even Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, a Republican, agreed after his own independent review, saying, "if we have an informant who is getting some serious charges dismissed, who also wouldn't talk to us, that basically left us with nothing to go on." Because all charges were dropped, the prosecution had no hammer to compel the informant into providing truthful testimony.

The public deserves to see corrupt elected officials brought to justice. But the responsibility for the failure of this case rests with the former prosecutors. Their case stalled for years and prosecution was undercut by the deal they struck.

There are serious ethical and legal issues to be raised both against those who were targeted and allegedly took cash, and those who targeted them. I loathe public corruption. However, the methods applied in this case also raise red flags.

I will continue to hold public officials accountable for corruption. But I will also hold my office to higher standards than those displayed in this investigation.
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