HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane on Wednesday fired a top aide who testified last year in the leak investigation that led a grand jury to recommend criminal charges against her.
Kane fired James Barker, the chief deputy attorney general for appeals and legal services, her office confirmed. He was escorted out of the office by agents.
Kane's spokeswoman, Carolyn Myers, could not explain the reason for the dismissal, but said Barker's ouster had "absolutely nothing" to do with his testimony in the leak case. She said it was part of a "restructuring" of the office's criminal division, but did not explain what that entailed.
Reached for comment Wednesday night, Barker, 53, said he was given "no reason whatsoever" for his firing. "I didn't do anything wrong," he said, adding: "I had no idea this was coming, and any notion of a restructuring within the criminal law division is news to me." He would not elaborate.
Barker, a longtime prosecutor who once served in the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office, had worked in the Attorney General's Office for six years. He was a member of the team that successfully argued against an appeal by Jerry Sandusky, and has been involved in the related and looming prosecution of three former Pennsylvania State University administrators.
Barker also was among several former or current top aides to Kane who testified before the grand jury that has recommended Kane be charged for releasing confidential information to a Philadelphia newspaper to punish a political rival.
The grand jury, led by Special Prosecutor Thomas Carluccio of Montgomery County, said Kane should be charged with perjury, obstruction, contempt of court, and other crimes. The case was turned over to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman to decide whether prosecution was warranted. Ferman has said she is reviewing the matter.
The Inquirer has reported that Montgomery County Court Judge William R. Carpenter, who oversaw the leak investigation, had issued a broad protective order to prevent retaliatory action against any witness in the case.
It was not clear whether Barker's firing would have violated that order, or even whether the order was still applicable, because the grand jury has completed its work. Neither Carpenter nor Carluccio could be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Sources have told The Inquirer that the grand jury concluded that Kane released confidential documents to the Philadelphia Daily News related to a long-dormant investigation involving Philadelphia civil rights leader J. Whyatt Mondesire, who was not charged in the case.
The grand jury found she did so to embarrass Frank Fina, a former top prosecutor in the Attorney General's Office, with whom she had been warring. Fina oversaw the 2009 investigation, and the documents released to the Daily News questioned how Fina handled the matter.
Kane has said repeatedly that while she authorized the release of certain information involving the Mondesire case, it was not secret or protected.
Her lawyers have also argued that she was not bound by the secrecy rules applicable to the 2009 grand jury because she was not attorney general at the time.
Sources told The Inquirer that Barker, who oversaw grand-jury investigations, rejected that view. They said he testified that the entire office, including the attorney general, was bound by confidentiality regardless of when a jury met.
Barker's firing follows an exodus of key staffers in the last year, including her top deputy, Philadelphia lawyer Adrian King, aides Linda Dale Hoffa and David Tyler, and chief of staff Blake Rutherford, who quit last week after less than four months on the job.