The judge who presided over the trial that ended in the conviction of former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane has defended her decision to bar Kane from citing the Porngate scandal as part of her defense, dismissing it as a "means of confusing the issues and misleading the jurors."
Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy, in a 104-page opinion affirming Kane's jury conviction, said she could think of "few examples of evidence more likely to sidetrack dispassionate, sober and judicious deliberation" than the display of pornography in court.
"The pornographic evidence was like quicksand, an inescapable trap for the mind of the jurors," the judge wrote.
That, she added, was the very reason that Kane's defense team so "doggedly pursued the production of the evidence at the trial."
To drive home her point, the judge conjured up this spectacle: the projection in court of pornographic images "onto a large screen at high-resolution images."
Kane, 50, the first woman and first Democrat to be elected attorney general, had her term cut short when the jury speedily convicted her in August of perjury and abusing the powers of her office. In October, Demchick-Alloy sentenced Kane to 10 to 23 months in prison, but permitted her to stay free pending appeals.
Kane's next appeals stop will be before Superior Court, which is obligated to hear all appeals by defendants convicted of felonies. If that court were to rule against her, she can seek a hearing before the state Supreme Court, which is not bound to take up all appeals. Thus, it may well take another two years before Kane exhausts her appellate rights.
The jury found that Kane lied when she was questioned about her decision to leak confidential investigative information to the Daily News to plant a story. The 2014 article was critical of a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina, whom prosecutors said Kane blamed for a negative story about her in the Inquirer.
Before the trial, Kane's lawyer asked the judge for permission to tell jurors that Fina, for many years the office's top corruption prosecutor, had been among many in the office who had used state computers to exchange emails with pornography with friends.
She said she wanted to bring this up for a narrow purpose: to rebut the prosecution idea that she had a vendetta against Fina.
If she had such a motive, Kane said she wanted to tell jurors, she could have damaged Fina's reputation by tying him to the pornography. In a civil suit, Fina has said that Kane did try to use the pornography issue as a weapon against him.
But in a one-sentence ruling shortly before the trial started, Demchick-Alloy barred Kane's lawyer from citing the pornography at trial. The judge didn't explain her reasoning at that time, but did so in detail in her opinion, released Thursday.
In it, Demchick-Alloy suggested Kane wanted it two ways. On the one hand, the judge noted that Kane said at a pretrial news conference that her defense would hinge on the argument that she broke no law. "My defense will not be that I am the victim of some old boys' network," she said at that time, the judge noted.
Yet the judge said that based on remarks by her defense team, Kane's lawyers also seemed to be gearing up to make the pornography issue "the centerpiece of their trial strategy."