DISTRICT ATTORNEY Seth Williams must be exhausted from the mental and verbal gymnastics he exerted when giving a pass to three of his staff involved in Porngate.
Friday, he announced that the three - Frank Fina, Marc Constanzo and Pat Blessington - were not going to be fired for their participation in sending and/or receiving sexually explicit emails while working in the Attorney General's Office, but instead will be enrolled in "sensitivity training."
Williams' statement exceeded 900 words, few of which amounted to anything close to a justification for his decision. The key paragraph stated:
"We found that none of the emails in question were created or originated by these three employees, and none were circulated to or by them while employed in my office. The large majority of the released e-mails - there are 20 altogether - date from five to six years ago. They were part of address chains covering literally hundreds of employees in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, who received and radiated the same images in widening circles."
To appreciate just how disingenuous this is, it deserves to be unpacked.
". . . none of the emails in question were created or originated by these three employees . . ."
The men didn't set up the photo shoots or take the explicit pictures: Well, that's a relief. But Fina was the sender of at least seven emails among those released, dating from 2008 to 2010. Each of these emails typically carried more than one image, in one case, 22 different graphic, sexually explicit images. Fina was the recipient of at least 13 emails, from 2009 to 2012, representing scores of images.
The argument that we can't control what comes into our inbox is a weak one: Anyone disturbed by receiving these emails could have blown the whistle and stopped them all. Then again, many of the emails had messages like "if you don't laugh, you must be dead" or "if you don't appreciate this, you're gay."
". . . and none were circulated to or by them while employed in my office . . ."
That's a bit of lawyerly twist: No one has accused the three of emailing porn while in the D.A.'s office, but rather, in the Attorney General's Office.
". . . The large majority of the released emails - there are 20 altogether - date from five to six years ago."
Is there a statute of limitation on the kind of terrible judgment and disturbing attitudes these emails represent? Besides, there may be 20 emails but there are so many vile, lewd, explicit images attached to each that they comprise five court exhibits. The most recent is 2012. These are only the ones so far released. How many more haven't been released? Others in Porngate received or sent hundreds.
"We found no evidence or suggestion of any inappropriate email behavior by these three employees during their time to date in my office, but if we did I would certainly terminate them."
The jobs these men hold now are pretty much the same jobs they held at the state level. Why is it OK they participated in these emails while at the Attorney General's Office?
" . . . the employers, employees, and colleagues with whom we spoke - and who included both women and blacks - described these employees as hard-working, dedicated prosecutors who were never disrespectful to them as females or minorities."
A few things we'd like to know: Which employers other than Kathleen Kane? Which colleagues other than those who were in the email chains? Which employees who weren't afraid to say something bad about the boss? And what about hearing from the victims of the crimes these prosecutors dealt with, especially in the case of sex crimes? Did they always feel respected? Anyone seeing a sampling of the images would have reasonable doubt.
Here's another question: Shouldn't someone look into whether these emails meet the standard for illegal behavior under current obscenity laws? Granted, with vague and outdated guidelines, such cases are hard to prosecute.
Let's be clear, these are not "racy" or "suggestive" or "naughty." They include explicit, hard-core obscene images. They would be shocking and outrageous in any setting.
But in an office supposedly dedicated to the high ideals of justice and truth, they constitute a stunning lack of maturity and judgment, and a callous disregard not just for women, but for people.