The defense lawyer for State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, a Philadelphia legislator arrested in the resurrected sting corruption case, issued subpoenas Friday to two top officials of the state Attorney General's Office in a bid to argue that the case is tainted by racial targeting.
A. Charles Peruto Jr. also said Friday night that he had subpoenaed Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and three of his staff to testify at the hearing for his client on the issue.
Williams, joined by the original architects of the sting, has denied that race played a role in the investigation, rejecting the contention of Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.
In researching the case for Bishop, Peruto said, he examined key documents assembled by Kane as part of her review of the sting. "I am going to demonstrate that Kathleen Kane, based on what she had access to, made the right decision," Peruto said.
Kane declined to pursue the case, which was initiated before she took office, saying the probe might have been improperly limited to African American officials. Williams resurrected it and brought bribery charges against Bishop and five other defendants. All are black.
Williams has said his own grand jury reinvestigation of the cases had debunked Kane. He has called her references to a racial motivation baseless, even "disgusting." But Peruto said he would vindicate the attorney general.
Her spokesman, Chuck Ardo, declined to comment.
Depending on what he learns at the hearing Friday in Dauphin County Court in Harrisburg, Peruto said, he may issue another subpoena - for Kane.
On Friday, he served the subpoenas demanding testimony from Kane's top deputy, veteran prosecutor Bruce Beemer, and Kevin Wevodau, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Peruto also wants testimony from three members of Williams' staff who once worked for Kane's predecessors: Frank Fina, who put the sting case in motion as a state prosecutor; E. Marc Costanzo, another veteran prosecutor; and Claude Thomas, now a detective in Williams' office.
Thomas, posing as a chauffeur, supervised undercover operative Tyron B. Ali as he gave money to elected officials while lobbying them for official action.
City prosecutors Mark Gilson and Brad Bender, whom Williams assigned to resurrect the case, say Bishop was taped pocketing $1,500 during meetings in 2010 and 2011. After the last payment, according to her arrest papers, Bishop replied, "That's a great help. That's a biggie."
Bishop, 81, a Democrat from West Philadelphia, has been in office for nearly three decades.
Peruto said he also planned to call Ali as a witness at some future hearing.
In sum, Peruto said, testimony and documents will show "these defendants were targeted because of race."
"They turned a blind eye to anyone else doing anything unless they were black," he said.
The role, if any, of race in the investigation has been a murky topic since The Inquirer last year broke the news that Kane had secretly shut down the sting operation.
Kane has said she had an affidavit by Wevodau in which he wrote that Thomas had told him he was ordered to target only blacks.
Thomas, who is African American, has denied telling Wevodau that. In April, he sued Kane and Wevodau over the issue, charging defamation.
Ali and his lawyer have declined to speak about the case.
Beemer was critical of the sting at a news conference last year, but not on racial grounds.
In his testimony before Williams' grand jury, Beemer said he "never for a second" believed the racial allegation and that "absolutely nothing in the case file" reflected a racial focus, the panel said in its report.
Beemer could not be reached Friday. Wevodau declined to comment. Thomas could not be reached for comment. Fina and Costanzo referred questions to Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office. Kline could not be reached.