A veteran lawyer from Montgomery County is the special prosecutor heading the inquiry into whether state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office leaked grand jury information in an effort to discredit her critics, The Inquirer has learned.

Thomas E. Carluccio, a criminal defense lawyer in Plymouth Meeting and former prosecutor in Delaware, was appointed over the summer by a Montgomery County judge to explore how secret records became public this year about a 2009 investigation by the Attorney General's Office involving Philadelphia political activist J. Whyatt Mondesire, according to several people familiar with the matter.

No charges were brought against Mondesire in the case. The investigation, details of which appeared in a June story in the Philadelphia Daily News, took place before Kane became attorney general.

Carluccio did not respond to messages left by phone and e-mail Tuesday. Renee Martin, Kane's acting director of communications, said the office would have no comment.

The Inquirer first reported news of the special prosecutor's appointment on Sunday. Sources said investigators in the inquiry have issued subpoenas to Kane's office and others.

Carluccio was appointed by Judge William Carpenter, the supervising grand jury judge in the eastern part of the state, the sources said. Both men are Republicans. Kane is a Democrat.

Though there have been past leak inquiries, this appears to be first time the state attorney general or top staffers in the office have come under scrutiny. Such an inquiry typically requires the approval of the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, according to a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

A person who violates grand jury secrecy rules may be found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to up to six months in prison.

Carluccio, 57, worked as a state deputy attorney general in Delaware before switching sides to work as a defense attorney in Pennsylvania. His wife, Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio, is a judge. A Republican, she joined Carpenter on the Montgomery County Common Pleas bench in 2010.

The leak to the Daily News involved a 2009 investigation by former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank G. Fina and onetime Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo. Fina, who handled the office's highest-profile criminal cases, left his position shortly after Kane took office.

Heated battle

Fina and Kane have been locked in a heated battle over the last two years on how certain cases were handled.

Kane, for instance, brought in a former federal prosecutor after she was elected to review Fina's prosecution of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky on child sex-abuse charges.

During her campaign for office, Kane said the Sandusky probe might have been delayed for political reasons. The independent review found no evidence of that.

And for the last six months, Kane has faced criticism for shutting down a sting operation launched by Fina that sources and investigative documents say captured five Philadelphia Democrats, including four state legislators, on tape accepting money or gifts.

As criticism over the sting case mounted, the Philadelphia Daily News reported in early June that Kane was conducting a review of Fina's handling of a 2009 investigation into Mondesire's finances.

The newspaper's story discussed, among other things, a secret investigative memo summarizing the status of the Mondesire probe.

Mondesire, the former president of the Philadelphia NAACP, has denied any wrongdoing.

Explicit e-mails

The leak investigation has been complicated by a separate but intense legal fight over the exchange of sexually explicit e-mails among former and current state officials.

The e-mails have become an issue because some Kane critics argue that Kane's office is using the threat of their release as a way to silence criticism of her, sources have told The Inquirer.

The messages were discovered during Kane's review of the Sandusky investigation, which involved going through thousands of documents.

The Inquirer has reported that the e-mails were shared on state computers and sometimes through government e-mail accounts. They are said to have contained pornographic images, jokes, cartoons, and other private messages.

Though not all of the recipients are known, some of the material circulated among scores of officials, from homicide investigators in the Attorney General's Office to state prosecutors and other state officials, including top Pennsylvania jurists, The Inquirer has reported.

While Judge Carpenter in Montgomery County is overseeing the leak probe, a different judge, Norman A. Krumenacher 3d, of Cambria County, has jurisdiction over the e-mail issue.

Several news organizations, including The Inquirer, have put in right-to-know requests for the e-mails. But Krumenacher has ordered a stay on the release of the e-mails.

He oversees the grand jury in Western Pennsylvania as well as the legal issues involving Kane's review of the Sandusky prosecution. The e-mails in questions were unearthed by computer experts as part of that review.

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