HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane will not discipline her sister, a top prosecutor in her office, for exchanging emails that mocked minorities, immigrants, and battered women, despite her position that others who shared similar messages should resign their public positions.
Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said she believes some of the emails sent or received by her twin, Ellen Granahan, were "questionable." But he said there were too few to warrant punishment.
And, he said, Kane considers her sister's emails less offensive than those exchanged by other prosecutors, judges, and defense lawyers, who traded what she has called "racist, misogynistic" messages.
"As a whole, they don't meet the same standard of offense," Ardo said.
Granahan's messages drew criticism Thursday from the chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, who denounced them as "degrading," and the head of the city chapter of the National Organization for Women, who called them "hateful."
The emails contained racial stereotypes and photos of scantily clad women and men. One had a photograph of a naked man, along with a joke about the size of his penis.
Earlier this month, Kane, a Democrat, appointed a special prosecutor to review the pornographic and offensive emails captured on her office's computer servers.
Before the announcement, she projected on a Jumbotron a sampling of the images that she deemed troubling, including some that made fun of African Americans, Mexican laborers, and victims of domestic violence.
Granahan's emails echoed similar themes. One displayed a photograph of a smiling woman with bruises on her eye and lip, with the caption "Domestic violence - because sometimes, you have to tell her more than once."
Another showed a black toddler wearing gold jewelry and clutching a stack of $100 bills.
Records released Wednesday show that in 2009, Granahan, who joined the Attorney General's Office the previous year, forwarded one of the emails to Kane, who was not yet attorney general. The message contained photographs of people in embarrassing moments, including one in which Queen Elizabeth II posed with a group of soldiers in kilts, one of them with his genitalia showing.
While none of the emails made public contained pornography, others sent or received by Granahan found humor in lesbian sex, obesity, anorexia, and Alzheimer's disease.
Kane and her sister said in a statement that a team reviewed Granahan's messages last year and found "no pornographic or offensive emails."
Last year, Kane disciplined more than 60 staffers in her office, firing four, for exchanging offensive emails. Granahan was not among them.
Kane released her sister's emails Wednesday evening, after a Philadelphiay prosecutor said at a news conference that Granahan had sent or received several dozen troubling emails, and that Kane herself had received a handful.
Albert S. Dandridge III, head of the Bar Association, on Thursday lambasted the newly disclosed messages, saying some were "disgusting and degrading."
While he declined to say if Granahan's messages should warrant discipline, Dandridge called on Kane to immediately disclose all offensive emails and identify all senders and recipients.
Kane's spokesman has said the appointment of a special prosecutor could bar any quick release of the messages.
Douglas Gansler, whom Kane appointed to review the emails, said Thursday that he would oversee a "truly independent" investigation.
This week, his team collected a hard drive that he said had all emails sent to and from the Attorney General's Office since 2008. The team will begin analyzing the messages next week, he said.
The material includes Granahan's emails, Ardo said.
Gansler, a former Maryland attorney general, said he asked Kane before accepting the job, "What if I find emails or conduct that casts you in a bad light?"
He said she replied: "So be it."
State Sen. Anthony H. Williams, a Democrat from West Philadelphia and one of the legislature's most vocal critics of the email scandal, called Granahan's emails "repugnant." He said they demonstrate, along with others, that the state's judicial system "is not blind and not fair."
Nina Ahman, president of the Philadelphia chapter of NOW, has joined Williams in calling for the resignations of three city prosecutors who had exchanged offensive emails while previously working for Kane. On Thursday, she called Granahan's email messages "hateful," but declined to offer an opinion on Kane's handling of the matter.