HARRISBURG - A hearing Wednesday in the criminal case against a Philadelphia legislator, caught on a recording accepting cash from a lobbyist, is expected to feature two high-profile witnesses - and bitter adversaries: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane and former state prosecutor Frank Fina.
The lawyers have been subpoenaed to testify at a pretrial hearing in the criminal case against Democratic State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, who is accused of taking money from an undercover operative in a sting investigation run by the state Attorney General's Office.
Both are to be questioned on whether race played a role in selecting targets for the inquiry. All six lawmakers charged in the case are black.
Fina ran the investigation, which took place between 2010 and 2012. As The Inquirer has reported, Kane secretly aborted the sting shortly after taking office in 2013. She has said she believed the undercover operation was poorly managed and possibly tainted by racial targeting.
On a dare from Kane, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams resurrected the investigation last year, and filed charges against Bishop and five other Philadelphia Democrats who were captured on recordings taking money from an undercover operative, Tyron B. Ali, who sought political and legislative favors.
Testimony about the case from Kane and Fina could test Kane's assertion that black legislators were singled out for prosecution. Fina, who now works for Williams, and others involved in the case have repeatedly rejected Kane's suggestion that race played any role in the investigation. They have suggested that Kane's criticism was motivated by animosity for Fina.
The hearing also could prove critical for Bishop, 82, who is seeking to have her case dismissed. Three former legislators have pleaded guilty in the case, as has a former Traffic Court judge.
In court papers filed Tuesday, Kane asked Dauphin County Judge Scott Evans, who is presiding over Bishop's case, to limit the scope of her questioning to "facts and public statements" about her decision not to prosecute the case. She is seeking to avoid questions about internal deliberations, or advice or recommendations she received.
Evans is expected to rule on the matter Wednesday.
Also scheduled to testify Wednesday is Claude Thomas, the lead agent in the sting. Thomas, who is black, has rejected any suggestion that race motivated decision-making in the case.
Kane and Fina have been locked in an ugly feud for nearly two years. The attorney general was charged this year with perjury, conspiracy, and other crimes for leaking confidential information to a newspaper in an attempt to embarrass Fina.
Prosecutors say she did so because she believed Fina was the source of an Inquirer story revealing her decision to quietly shutter the sting.
Kane has pleaded not guilty, and has said the case against her was "corruptly manufactured" by Fina and angry Republican men who were attempting to block her from exposing pornographic emails they sent or received on government computers.