'Porngate' Scandal Rocks Pennsylvania State Government

By Barbara Hollingsworth | February 19, 2016 | 3:58pm EST
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announces that she will not seek reelection at a Feb. 16, 2016 press conference in Scranton. (AP photo)

 

(CNSNews.com) – Pennsylvania’s state government is reeling from a scandal involving the exchange of sexually explicit images and other offensive material among judges, prosecutors and other top state officials.

“Porngate” has already resulted in the early retirement of one state Supreme Court justice, the suspension of another, and ongoing attempts to impeach embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who exposed the misbehavior.

On Tuesday, Kane announced that she would not seek re-election as she faces criminal charges of leaking secret grand jury evidence to a Philadelphia newspaper and allegedly lying about it under oath.

The state Supreme Court suspended Kane’s law license last September. The Pennsylvania House Subcommittee on Courts has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday to determine whether she should be impeached after an attempt in the State Senate failed last week.

"If the legislature spent a fraction of the time investigating this content as it has on the one individual who exposed it, we could start to restore credibility to our judicial system and give Pennsylvanians a system of justice in which they can be proud,” a defiant Kane responded.

But fellow Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf urged her to "step down as attorney general, because I think she cannot do what she has to do as the top law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania while she's facing these serious charges."

Pennsylvania’s first female attorney general claims that she is being targeted for exposing a corrupt “old boys network,” in which the same judges and prosecutors who were supposed to be battling the sexual abuse of women and children were allegedly passing around images of it on state government computers instead.

“I told you I would fight corruption, and I'm fighting corruption, regardless of the personal cost to me," Kane said at a Tuesday press conference in Scranton.

She proclaimed her innocence during an earlier press conference on Aug. 13, 2015: “My defense will be that I broke no laws of this commonwealth. Period,” she told reporters.

“The chain of events that led to charges being filed against me did not begin with the printing of a newspaper article in the spring of 2014. It did not even begin as I was sworn in as attorney general of this great commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

“No, the chain of events that led to this moment began long before that, and it began with a group of state prosecutors and judges passing pornographic, racially offensive and religiously offensive emails amongst each other. Email traffic sent and received on government computers and on government time,” Kane said.

In December, the attorney general turned over what she called “a filthy chain” of one million emails from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office dating back to 2008 to former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, whom she appointed as a special prosecutor.

That same month, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin, a Republican, was suspended by the Court of Judicial Discipline for his involvement in the “Porngate” scandal.  The ethics board ruled that Eakin had “engaged in conduct so extreme that it brought the judicial office into disrepute.”

Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat, voluntarily stepped down from the bench in October 2014 after his involvement in the pornography scandal was made public.

But the fallout was not confined to the state’s highest court. Six top aides of former Attorney General Tom Corbett were terminated and 23 others were reprimanded, Kane said. In addition, Environmental Protection Secretary Christopher Abruzzo and Glenn Parno, the agency’s deputy chief counsel, were forced to resign after being implicated in the scandal.

It also ensnared one of Pennsylvania’s ethics watchdogs: Deputy Inspector General Anthony Fiore. Robert Soop, a supervisory special agent in the attorney general’s office, allegedly emailed Fiore photos of two women engaged in sexual activity and suggested them as possible secretaries for a colleague.

Psychologist Jim Singer told CNSNews.com that he faced severe retaliation after reporting suspected sexual child abuse in Dauphin County, where Kane has said some of the pornographic emails originated.

In a 2014 court filing, Singer charged that Soop and other Pennsylvania state officials engaged in “fraudulent concealment of criminal violations by government” in his case while prosecuting Jerry Sandusky and other Penn State officials for covering up the university’s sex abuse scandal.

“How can government officials condone sexual degradation and abuse viewed by staff of the Office of Attorney General using office computers while they are being paid to meet their obligation to stop sexual abuse?” Singer asked.

Related: Child Psychologist Who First Reported Sandusky Abuse Accuses PA Officials of ‘Whitewash’

Related: Pennsylvania Has Lowest Reporting of Child Abuse in U.S., Group Says

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