PENNSYLVANIA'S political Cold War crept even closer yesterday toward a doomsday scenario - one with the potential to spread nuclear fallout across the criminal-justice landscape, from police departments to the Supreme Court.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, a Republican, continued to attack state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, charging the embattled Democrat with felony perjury and related misdemeanors after Ferman's detectives raided Kane's Harrisburg office last month.
Kane, already facing charges for allegedly leaking confidential grand-jury information to impugn a political foe, was dragged back into a Collegeville courtroom yesterday for allegedly lying about a secrecy oath she claimed she hadn't signed after taking office in 2013. The oath was recovered in the raid - with Kane's notarized signature.
"This is a perjury case that we have brought based upon materials that she testified about and that were brought out by people in her office that indicate she had sworn to this," said Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele, describing the latest charges as "very straightforward."
But the future is anything but.
Kane, 49, the first Democrat and first woman elected attorney general in Pennsylvania, responded yesterday by reaching for the nuclear-option button - a cache of emails, some inappropriate, pulled from her office's servers that could spell trouble for law-enforcement officers, judges, federal prosecutors, public defenders, private lawyers and at least one state Supreme Court justice.
A defiant Kane, who arrived in jeans, a plaid shirt and boots, told reporters at her arraignment that she recently gave ethics agencies about 1,500 emails linked to state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin, a former Republican prosecutor who made headlines last year when it was revealed that he was on the receiving end of pornographic and racist emails.
"You can arrest me two times, you can arrest me 10 times. I'm sure this isn't the end of the game," Kane said. "But I will not stop until the truth comes out, and I will not stop until the system operates the way it's supposed to be."
The emails that Kane has turned over to the Judicial Conduct Board have not been publicly released. But the Daily News subsequently obtained some of the emails that were sent and received by Eakin using his Yahoo.com email address.
They're not pretty.
One mocks gay people. Some make fun of Mexicans or African-Americans. Some are pornographic. Some make fun of women. Some might just be considered juvenile.
In 2010, Eakin sent an email to five people - including then-Senior Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Baxter - that included a joke about a woman who goes to the doctor, "beaten black and blue."
The woman complains to the doctor that her husband "beats me to a pulp" when he comes home drunk and the doctor advises her to swish sweet tea in her mouth and not to swallow until her husband is asleep. When the woman returns to the doctor, she marvels at how well the therapy has worked. The punchline from the doctor: "You see how much keeping your mouth shut helps?"
In 2009, Baxter sent an email to Eakin and two other people that includes a video portraying black people as welfare recipients who voted for President Obama so they wouldn't have to work or pay bills.
That same year, Eakin and Baxter were among four people who received an email of faux "motivational posters." One photo has a caption that reads: "Sexism: Only ugly b-----s complain about it." A photo of two heavyset women has a caption: "Lesbians: Sorry guys but reality is nothing like porn."
A message left at Eakin's chambers late yesterday was not returned. Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo declined to comment on the Eakin emails last night.
An earlier batch of emails that Kane released last year led to the retirement of state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and the resignations of several former top deputies in former Gov. Corbett's administration.
The emails were discovered during Kane's review of how Corbett, while serving as attorney general, handled the sex-abuse investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Kane told reporters yesterday that the inappropriate emails tied to Eakin's account "means that your system, your criminal-justice system that you think you have and you think you deserve, is not working properly."
Kane, who has insisted that she is not guilty of the current perjury and obstruction of justice charges, is still sitting on a trove of emails that have not been turned over to the Judicial Conduct Board.
Last week, when the Supreme Court voted unanimously to suspend her law license, Kane responded by vowing to "root out the culture of misogyny and racially/religiously offensive behavior that has permeated law enforcement and members of the judiciary in this Commonwealth for years."
The unreleased emails include some from Phila.gov, Montcopa.org and Pennsylvania State Police, according to a source close to Kane's legal team. Their content has not been disclosed.
Kane has claimed in a court filing that the criminal investigation that has imperiled her political and legal career was "corruptly manufactured" by former state prosecutors Frank Fina and E. Marc Costanzo to cover up the email porn they'd viewed on state computers.
In August, the Supreme Court released some of Fina's emails, including one featuring a woman performing oral sex with the caption, "Making your boss happy is your only job," and another woman having anal sex with the caption, "Take advantage of every opening." Some were also racially offensive.
Fina and Costanzo now work for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
Prosecutors handling Kane's criminal case allege that she illegally leaked grand-jury information from a 2009 case to strike back at Fina, who she believed had leaked information about a state corruption probe she had failed to prosecute.
So far, Williams has declined to discipline Fina or Costanzo for sending or receiving the smutty emails, but Kane has promised that another wave of emails is on the way.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.