HARRISBURG - Despite charges that he illegally spied on colleagues' emails, the head of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's security detail will remain on the job, her office announced Tuesday.
Patrick Reese, 48, a Kane confidant, will continue working in his $99,658-a-year position despite an internal policy that calls for the suspension of employees charged with crimes involving their official duties.
Reese was charged Aug. 6 with contempt of court for secretly accessing emails in an effort to learn about a criminal investigation of his boss. Prosecutors say he was seeking information about a grand jury inquiry into whether Kane leaked confidential information to a Philadelphia newspaper in a bid to embarrass a critic. They say he did so at Kane's direction.
Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said Tuesday that the Attorney General's Office had carefully reviewed the charges and determined that despite the policy calling for suspension, "the punishment does not fit the crime." He said the decision to allow Reese to stay on was made by Jonathan Duecker, Kane's chief of staff and a member of a shrinking circle of staffers she trusts.
"The chief's logic is simple," said Ardo. "And that is, there may have been an alleged violation, but he [Duecker] didn't feel that the violation merited suspension."
A long-standing policy of the Attorney General's Office calls for suspending any staffer "formally charged with criminal conduct related to employment with the commonwealth."
Prosecutors in Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman's office say Reese surreptitiously read the emails of colleagues, prosecutors, judges, and others involved in the grand jury investigation of Kane.
By accessing the emails, prosecutors say, Reese violated a protective order barring Kane's office from retaliating against witnesses in the investigation.
Reese has pleaded not guilty and faces a Sept. 9 trial before Judge William R. Carpenter, the Montgomery County judge who issued the protective order.
Kane, the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official, is charged with obstruction, conspiracy, perjury, and other crimes for allegedly leaking grand jury documents, then lying about it under oath. She is also charged with ordering Reese to illegally access others' emails in an effort to learn about the investigation that led to her arrest.
Prosecutors allege that Kane secretly released grand jury documents about a long-shuttered investigation handled by a former top prosecutor in her office, Frank Fina, with whom she was feuding. She did so, they say, because she blamed Fina for negative news stories about her.
Kane has pleaded not guilty and has said she will remain in office despite calls from Gov. Wolf and others that she resign.
This week, a Montgomery County judge ruled that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence for Kane to stand trial. Prosecutors say the case will likely go before a jury early next year.