Philadelphia prosecutors didn't call out state Attorney General Kathleen Kane by name last week. But they might as well have.
"Clear, convincing, and compelling," District Attorney Seth Williams said of the evidence supporting corruption charges against former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, whose case was quietly dropped by Kane last year. The facts at hand, Williams added, "are about as simple as they probably seemed to average citizens." Referring to an informant's damning recordings, he described the revival of the prosecution as a two-step process: "press and play."
And in case that wasn't clear enough, Williams deputy Mark Gilson put it even more bluntly: "It's like shooting fish in a barrel."
Tynes, who is charged with accepting a $2,000 Tiffany charm bracelet in exchange for her help securing a Traffic Court contract, was one of several officials whose cases were mired in a standoff between Kane and her subordinates. Williams suggested last week that more charges will come out of the investigation, which was first revealed by The Inquirer in March.
The prosecutors' feud dates to Kane's campaign for attorney general two years ago. The Democrat was elected after sharply criticizing the prosecution of Penn State predator Jerry Sandusky under her Republican predecessor as attorney general, Gov. Corbett. The prosecutor who led the Sandusky probe, Frank Fina - since hired by Williams - also headed the sting that allegedly caught Tynes and four state legislators, all Democrats from Philadelphia.
To counter the perception that the case was killed out of personal animus or political favoritism, Kane leveled a series of accusations at the investigation and those who conducted it. She argued that it was unprosecutable in the absence of a demonstrated "quid pro quo" - that is, official favors provided by those who took gifts or money. And given that all the officials implicated are black, Kane said, the investigation was tainted by racism.
Now, in a compelling rebuttal, Philadelphia's African American district attorney not only has charged Tynes with bribery, but has compared the undertaking to target practice.
Kane's review of the Sandusky probe also failed to back up most of her criticisms. But it did uncover a trove of pornographic e-mails traded among her office's employees, the recent revelation of which forced four current and former state officials to leave their jobs and prompted the suspension of state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery. But in focusing on officials aligned with the governor, Kane's piecemeal release of the e-mails also furthered the perception that some of her official decisions have been driven by personal and political motives.