On Monday, Andrew Novak wrote
in the Daily Beast that electing prosecutors has "disastrous consequences for justice." For evidence of such prosecutorial injustice and corruption, you need look no further than the state of Pennsylvania. In the past week alone, two of the state’s most powerful prosecutors, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, have been in serious hot water for what is alleged to be rampant professional misconduct.
Kane, the state’s highest-ranked law enforcement officer, is accused of surreptitiously leaking grand jury testimony to the media to embarrass another prosecutor whom she considered a rival, lying under oath about the leak to the media, and forcing aides to illegally access computer files about the investigation against her.
Such egregious behavior is actually unsurprising. Kane has a history of using her office to intimidate critics and adversaries, and has allegedly both opened investigations out of revenge and dropped serious charges when politically beneficial.
This latest Machiavellian misconduct resulted in nine criminal charges, including perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office, among others. At yesterday’s preliminary hearing, Kane’s lawyer argued against the validity of these charges, but the judge rejected his arguments and ordered Kane to stand trial on all nine counts. She has proclaimed her innocence and refuses to resign, as you can read below.
In addition, Kane is reportedly also being investigated by the FBI, regarding totally unrelated issues. Federal authorities are said to be interested in Kane's role in union contract negotiations, as well as a trip Kane and her aides took to Haiti last year.
In Philadelphia, District Attorney Williams is also the subject of a investigation by both the FBI and IRS. Sources say that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed campaign records from William’s political action committee in order to determine whether he "misspent campaign funds on personal expenses." This is not the first time campaign money has been an issue for Williams—he has previously been criticized for paying his former wife thousands of dollars using campaign money, a practice he defended.
Ironically, Williams and Kane have had a contentious relationship themselves. Williams has stated that Kane is behind the public release of his federal investigation, stating that the article "is Kathleen Kane retaliating against prosecutors doing their jobs." And earlier this year Kane, who is white, accused Williams, a black man, of bringing charges "tainted by racism" after Williams charged multiple black state officials with misconduct.
These cases are yet another indication that prosecutors are often granted far too much power with far too little accountability. Prosecutors are entrusted with the lives and well-being of millions of defendants, and the system cannot be just or fair unless prosecutors are held to strict behavioral and professional standards.
If the allegations are true, Kane and Williams are further evidence that prosecutors require increased oversight and boundaries to ensure that they are working in the interest of those they are meant to serve.