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Governor nominates former state prosecutor Beemer to replace Kane

HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf on Thursday nominated a former top state prosecutor to serve as attorney general and replace the convicted Kathleen G. Kane, a move that would end the fleeting tenure of Bruce L. Castor Jr.

Bruce Beemer will face a state Senate vote.
Bruce Beemer will face a state Senate vote.Read moreClem Murray / Staff Photographer

HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf on Thursday nominated a former top state prosecutor to serve as attorney general and replace the convicted Kathleen G. Kane, a move that would end the fleeting tenure of Bruce L. Castor Jr.

Wolf said his nominee, Bruce Beemer, a Democrat, had the support of Republican and Democratic legislative leaders. Beemer's nomination must be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate, a vote that is not expected before the end of the month.

"Bruce Beemer has a depth of experience," Wolf said in a statement. "He has the respect of the employees of the Office of the Attorney General, and I have no doubt that he will make this transition seamless and smooth."

Beemer, who has worked for two decades as a state and county prosecutor, was a key witness against Kane in the trial that ended Monday. She was convicted of two felony counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor counts of abusing the power of her office. The day after her conviction, she announced her resignation.

Beemer served as Kane's second-in-command until July, when Wolf named him inspector general, a post in which he investigates wrongdoing or wasteful spending by government employees.

After returning to the Attorney General's Office, he would serve as the state's top law enforcement officer until January. Voters in November will elect a new attorney general, who will take office in January.

Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is opposing Republican John Rafferty, a state senator from Montgomery County.

The choice of Beemer was hailed by prosecutors and agents in the Attorney General's Office, many of whom viewed him as a stabilizing force during Kane's tumultuous tenure.

Though Beemer was Kane's handpicked top deputy, their relationship turned icy after it became known that he was to testify against her at her perjury trial.

In an interview Thursday, Beemer said he hoped to restore morale in the office and create an environment that allowed employees to focus on their work.

"It's a short period of time, but I feel strongly about helping the people who work there do their jobs - and do it in the best environment possible," he said.

He declined to say what personnel moves, if any, he might make if he is confirmed - including whether to keep Castor on the payroll.

Kane made a number of controversial hires and promotions during her tenure, including selecting as her chief of staff a man who had been the target of sexual-harassment complaints. She also allowed her onetime driver, who was charged along with her, to remain on the payroll after he was convicted.

"I will make individual decisions based on the facts of each circumstance," Beemer said.

In a radio interview before Wolf's announcement Thursday, Castor, a Republican, said he hoped to remain in the post.

Earlier in the day, he issued a news release referring to himself as "attorney general," dropping the acting or interim qualifier.

The website of the Attorney General's Office also identified him Thursday as attorney general and carried his photograph with that title. He also changed the Twitter handle @PaAttorneyGen to reflect his name and picture.

On Tuesday, Castor stirred controversy by saying he was pondering arresting Joshua Morrow, a witness against Kane who testified under an immunity deal. Castor made the remark a day after the judge in Kane's case warned against retaliation against witnesses.

After Wolf's announcement, Castor sought to put the best face on the situation, suggesting that the governor had no choice but to act. He noted that state law says a governor "shall nominate" someone to fill a vacancy for attorney general. However, the law does not require action within any set time.

Kane, whose law license was suspended because of her arrest, named Castor in March to a newly created position as solicitor general of her agency.

The hiring was a win for both. It gave Kane a new ally in an office in which many top staffers had turned against her.

Castor, who unsuccessfully sought his party's nomination for attorney general in 2004, lost a race for Montgomery County district attorney last fall. He was defeated by Kevin R. Steele, a Democrat, who led the prosecution of Kane.

When Beemer left the agency, Kane promoted Castor to fill his position as first deputy.

In that role, Castor was sworn in as interim attorney general Wednesday afternoon, when Kane's resignation took effect.

If Beemer is confirmed, he will have the chance to choose his executive team.

Beemer, said Wolf, will return to his job as inspector general in January.

After a five-day trial, Kane was found guilty of leaking confidential grand jury documents and then lying about it under oath. Beemer delivered damaging testimony at the trial, telling jurors last week that Kane warned him she would fire him and other top aides if she was "taken out of here in handcuffs."

He also testified that Kane rejected his request to investigate the leak, saying it was "not a big deal" without disclosing that she was behind it.

A juror in Kane's trial, Adam Galasso, said in an interview that Beemer's testimony was key.

"We all agreed in the jury box: Bruce Beemer, he was telling the truth the whole time," Galasso said.

215-854-4821 @CraigRMcCoy

Staff writer Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.