Even as state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin apologized for his "insensitive" emails, debate intensified over whether the justice was given a pass last year when his troubling emails first came under scrutiny.

Eakin said the offensive messages "do not reflect my character or beliefs." Nor, he said, "have they ever been part of my consideration of any case or business of the court."

Saying he found it "disconcerting and embarrassing" that his private emails were public, Eakin said Tuesday night, "I sincerely apologize for such content."

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane refocused attention on Eakin on Oct. 1, when she said he had swapped "racial misogynistic pornography using state computers."

After Kane first ignited a scandal last year about offensive emails exchanged by state officials on work computers, both the Supreme Court and the state Judicial Conduct Board opened investigations.

The result: Former Justice Seamus McCaffery retired after he was linked to pornographic emails, but Eakin was cleared.

In a lengthy statement Wednesday, Kane vehemently rejected recent complaints from the Supreme Court and the judicial review panel that she had withheld some of Eakin's worst emails and sabotaged their investigations.

Kane said that Robert A. Graci, the chief counsel of the judicial board, had come to her offices last November and viewed emails that Eakin sent or received with "numerous videos and photos of nude women."

Graci departed with a disk containing those messages, she said.

In a recent story, the Philadelphia Daily News provided a comprehensive account of Eakin's emails. The paper cited few that were sexual, but detailed others with supposed jokes that portrayed blacks as lazy, referred to Mexicans as "beaners," and made light of domestic violence.

In her statement, Kane said Graci indeed had access to the emails cited by the Daily News.

Later Thursday, her spokesman, Chuck Ardo, modified that statement, saying that Graci had seen many, but not all, of the emails.

Ardo said Kane's technical experts first provided Graci only emails with attachments containing photos and videos.

He said that the office was going to release the remaining emails without attachments but that Graci finished his work before that happened. Ardo said the office alerted Graci that those messages would be available.

Ardo also said Graci and his staff were shown many troubling messages.

As for the Supreme Court review, Ardo said that Kane had provided all emails without exception to the court's special counsel, Pittsburgh lawyer Robert L. Byer.

Kane's statement said the emails were placed in two electronic folders for Byer to review, one labeled as containing sexual material and the other as nonsexual.

Graci declined comment Thursday.

Byer, in his first comment since the current scandal broke, flatly disputed that the material was placed in the two folders.

He also said that he had spoken repeatedly with lawyers on Kane's staff and none had raised any concerns about Eakin's messages.

Byer reviewed the emails using a temporary digital link to tie into a server in the Attorney General's Office. He kept no printouts, making it difficult to verify what was provided him for inspection.

Even though Kane said her office had possession last year of numerous troubling Eakin emails either received or sent, the attorney general did not speak out about them at the time.

Kane did so this month, minutes after she was arraigned on a new perjury charge in her pending criminal case - and not long after the Supreme Court had suspended her law license because of that case.

Ardo said Kane did not speak out last year because she had only recently realized that the emails amassed last year contained offensive material.

While the Attorney General's Office did conduct its own internal review of the emails, Ardo said it looked only at whether there had been any improper exchanges about specific cases before the court. It found none of that.

Said Ardo: "While we agree that the Attorney General's Office had no improper communication with the court, we would dispute the characterization that we found nothing wrong with the emails."

cmccoy@phillynews.com 215-854-4821 @CraigRMcCoy