Adviser says he conspired with Kane to plot grand jury leak and cover-up
August 11, 2016 10:44 PM
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaves the courtroom for a short recess on Tuesday at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa..
By Laura McCrystal and Craig McCoy / Philadelphia Inquirer
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — A political consultant to Kathleen G. Kane testified Thursday that the Pennsylvania attorney general was deeply involved in orchestrating an illegal grand jury leak and that the two of them plotted a cover-up, conspiring to pin the crime on an estranged former top aide.
"We had conspired to create this story that wasn't true," Joshua Morrow said Thursday as he took the witness stand at Ms. Kane's perjury trial in Norristown. "Kathleen and I came up with a story that she was going to testify to and I was going to testify to."
He said they hatched the scheme in August 2014 at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City. Before the meeting, he said, two members of Kane's security detail picked him up at a nearby street corner and drove him to a parking garage, where they took his cellphone, wallet, and keys, and searched him with a security wand "to see if I was wearing a recording device."
Her security detail performed that same drill at two other meetings he had with Ms. Kane, including one in which she met him, "frantic," in a park near her home outside Scranton, he told jurors.
In the meeting at the Bellevue, Mr. Morrow said, Ms. Kane stunned him by saying a grand jury was investigating an illegal leak of secret documents from the Attorney General's Office — documents that he had passed on to a reporter at Ms. Kane's request after receiving them from Adrian King, then her top deputy.
Mr. Morrow said he and Ms. Kane agreed to blame the leak on Mr. King, who had left her staff and had a strained relationship with her. Mr. Morrow pledged to lie that she never saw the leaked documents.
Mr. Morrow, 43, who was granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation, admitted his story had changed over time.
"To protect Kathleen," he said, he stuck with his initial story, lying in three grand jury appearances and modifying his accounts until he decided to tell the full truth days before trial.
In a rigorous cross-examination, Seth Farber, one of Ms. Kane's lawyers, repeatedly suggested that Mr. Morrow had no credibility left.
"Would it be fair to say, Mr. Morrow, that no matter what you say, no matter how much you change your testimony, you don't get charged with a crime?" Mr. Farber asked.
"Correct," Mr. Morrow replied.
While Mr. Morrow said he finally decided to tell the truth because he wanted to do the right thing, he acknowledged that his motivation was spurred when detectives confronted him with phone records that cast doubt on his original story.
He changed the tale a bit, he said, when "I realized the lie was starting to unravel."
Ms. Kane, 50, is charged with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction, and other crimes. Prosecutors say she illegally leaked secret grand jury information because she wanted to exact revenge on a critic, former state prosecutor Frank Fina.
Mr. Morrow and other witnesses have said she blamed Mr. Fina for a March 2014 article in the Inquirer disclosing that she had secretly shut down a promising undercover corruption investigation. The probe, run by Mr. Fina, had caught Democratic elected officials from Philadelphia on tape accepting cash from a lobbyist.
To strike back at Mr. Fina, prosecutors say, Ms. Kane orchestrated a leak to the Daily News, planting a June 2014 story suggesting that he had failed to vigorously pursue an investigation of the finances of a Philadelphia civil rights leader in 2009.
In April 2014, Mr. Morrow said, Ms. Kane called him to discuss the planned leak and described the documents to be delivered to plant a story. He said the two later agreed that he would falsely say Ms. Kane had asked him to call Mr. King, but gave him no further information.
Mr. Morrow said Ms. Kane had "a lot of animosity" toward Mr. Fina and leaked the documents to embarrass him. Mr. Morrow also disliked Mr. Fina and said he believed Mr. Fina had treated him unfairly in an investigation.
After the secret material had been passed on to the Daily News, Mr. Morrow texted Ms. Kane: "What's the saying about revenge?"
"Best served cold," she replied, according to text messages Mr. Morrow recently provided to prosecutors that were displayed at trial.
As it happened, the newspaper did not publish a story for several weeks after the hand off of the documents. Ms. Kane grew restless, Mr. Morrow said.
"Where's my story? I'm dying here while you are drinking," she texted Mr. Morrow one evening.
Ms. Kane showed little reaction to Mr. Morrow's testimony. She was accompanied to court by her parents, twin sister, and other relatives who sat in the front row of the courtroom.
Earlier Thursday, Kane's lawyers concluded their cross-examination of Mr. King, Ms. Kane's former top deputy, onetime boyfriend, and longtime friend. Mr. King testified that he left the envelope containing confidential grand jury materials for Mr. Morrow to pick up — but insisted he did not know at the time what was inside it.
From the witness stand, Mr. King accused Ms. Kane — more than once — of trying to set him up and pin a crime on him.
Mr. Farber, one of her lawyers, asked Mr. King if he had been repeating his version of events since the leak investigation began.
"I've testified truthfully to that, and that's all I've done time and time again," Mr. King said.
Prosecutors will continue presenting their case when the trial, before Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy, resumes this morning.