Pennsylvania attorney general says she hasn't made decision about prosecuting in email scandal

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has not decided whether to prosecute anyone in a scandal over the email exchange of pornography by state government employees, a spokeswoman said Thursday, pulling back an earlier statement about whether anyone could be charged over child pornography.

“When I said that the Pennsylvania attorney general has decided not to prosecute regarding the emails as pornography, including depictions of children contained in some emails, I misspoke,” spokeswoman Renee Martin said.

A day earlier, Martin had said there was no child pornography in the hundreds of emails and, had there been, someone already would have been charged. But an outside lawyer for Kane, Lanny Davis, said Thursday that Martin had not been in a position to say that and that no decision on the matter had been made by prosecutors.

Neither Davis nor Martin would say Thursday that they believe child pornography was involved.

But to underscore the position that some sort of prosecution could be possible, they pointed to an Oct. 27 published opinion regarding a state Supreme Court justice’s suspension over the emails. In it, Chief Justice Ronald Castille mentioned a video “of a woman in sexual congress with a snake that is clearly obscene and may violate the Crimes Code section on obscenity.”

Reporters’ questions about child pornography were set off by a Tuesday night TV interview given by Kane. In it, Kane seemed to suggest the emails in question had contained child pornography. She told the interviewer that the emails included “hardcore, graphic, sometimes violent emails that had a string of videos and pictures depicting sometimes children, old women. Some of them involved violent sexual acts against women.”

Kane did not elaborate on that comment, and she was not pressed to by the interviewer. In any case, no one who had viewed the emails to that point had described them as having involved child pornography.

The week has brought a series of eyebrow-raising developments for the attorney general, beginning Monday when she testified for 2 1/2 hours in front of a grand jury investigating whether her office had breached grand jury secrecy in a separate case.

Martin’s statement Thursday said Kane cannot elaborate on the email scandal because of a court order in the grand jury secrecy investigation. The email scandal has already cost a handful of government officials their jobs, including the Supreme Court justice and Pennsylvania’s environmental protection secretary.

Kane has said her office originally discovered pornographic and explicit videos, images and jokes in hundreds of emails during an examination of how state prosecutors handled the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case under her predecessors, a review she promised while running for the office in 2012.