After reading reports that she was under investigation by a grand jury, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane lamented in an email that a judge's protective order would prevent her from investigating what she called an "egregious leak."

Three days later, she ordered two of her aides to find the source of the leak.

Her turnabout was laid out in the trial of Patrick Reese, her security chief, charged with contempt of court for allegedly violating the protective order in a bid to dig up information for his boss.

Prosecutors say Reese, at Kane's order, surreptitiously read staff emails, not to plug a leak but to learn who might have assisted in the investigation of Kane.

Kane is awaiting trial on charges of illegally leaking confidential information in a scheme to embarrass a critic.

Prosecutors say that by secretly reading emails in the computer system of the Attorney General's Office, Reese violated the judicial order barring Kane's office from retaliating against witnesses in the investigation.

Reese, a former small-town police chief and confidante of the attorney general's, has pleaded not guilty in his trial before Montgomery County Judge William R. Carpenter, who oversaw the grand jury investigation and issued the protective order. Reese could face a maximum of six months in prison.

Defense attorney William Fetterhoff said Reese's goal was to get to the bottom of the leak, not to snoop for Kane.

And he said there was no proof that Reese was aware of the protective order blocking employees of the Attorney General's Office from viewing grand jury material.

But the order was "widely discussed" among Kane's top aides, First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer testified Monday.

Moreover, prosecutors presented evidence that Reese left digital fingerprints on a series of documents detailing the scope of the protective order he is charged with violating.

Beemer was just one of five senior aides called as witnesses by prosecutors Thomas W. McGoldrick and M. Stewart Ryan. Another was supervisory agent David Peifer, who revealed that he was helping build the prosecution case under a grant of immunity.

Reese's searches, displayed through computer records in court Monday, yielded emails containing grand jury subpoenas, schedules, and even the name of a grand juror.

Reese's lawyer argued that there was no evidence that his client actually read all the material he accessed.

The trial is to resume Tuesday morning.

610-313-8116@Lmccrystal