The truth can be bent, obscured, or even, to use Attorney General Kathleen Kane's felicitous phrase, "half-assed." But Kane's assessment of the case against five Democratic officials from Philadelphia could not have been more plainly untrue.
In March, when The Inquirer revealed that Kane had aborted an investigation that caught the officials taking money and jewelry from an informant, the state's top law enforcer flatly declared the matter unprosecutable. Nine months later, however, it's being prosecuted.
With charges this week against State Reps. Ron Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has revived a majority of the cases Kane deemed beyond the law's reach. And Williams has made it clear that this isn't exactly catching Capone: His office even released snapshots of the meetings at which Waters and Brown allegedly took the money.
Another defendant, former Traffic Court Judge Thomasine Tynes, became the first to plead guilty in the case on Wednesday. So much for Kane's assertion that "the prosecution would have failed - no doubt."
The exposure of that falsehood undermines other apparent deceptions in its service, such as Kane's dubious claim that federal authorities concurred with her decision. More disturbingly, she said there was evidence that the investigation improperly targeted black officials. But if that were true, it certainly would have provided an opening for even the most "half-assed" defense attorney - or hesitation by the African American district attorney. On the contrary, Williams said he found no evidence of bias and "was disgusted that the attorney general would bring racism into this case."
Williams said Kane may have actually ended the case over a grudge, a reference to her feud with Frank Fina, a former top state prosecutor who now works for the district attorney. When she ran for attorney general in 2012, Kane criticized the pace of the office's prosecution of Penn State predator Jerry Sandusky under her Republican predecessor Tom Corbett. The politically successful tactic set in motion Kane's difficulties with Fina, who headed the Sandusky prosecution, and much of her difficulty with the truth.
After a review of the Sandusky prosecution failed to support her most serious criticisms, for example, Kane made new allegations implying that additional victims were abused because of the investigation's slowness. She was soon forced to retract the claim.
A trove of pornographic e-mails among state officials uncovered during the review provoked another round of bluffs and dodges. Kane's partial, piecemeal disclosure of the e-mails seemed designed to target her enemies. She later suggested on CNN that some of the e-mails contained child pornography - a claim retracted by an aide the next day.