Pennsylvania's attorney general said Wednesday that criminal charges threatening to end her career were filed as part of an effort by state prosecutors and judges to conceal pornographic and racially insensitive emails they circulated with one another.
"I am innocent of any wrongdoing,'' Kathleen Kane said in her first public comments on the case. "I neither conspired with anyone nor did I ask or direct anyone to do anything improper or unlawful.''
Kane, 49, was charged last week with leaking grand jury information to a newspaper reporter as payback to a former state prosecutor and then lying about it under oath.
Kane called the grand jury investigation and charges against her a "stealth political weapon'' to discredit her after her office uncovered pornographic and explicit videos, images and jokes in hundreds of emails while examining how state prosecutors under her predecessors handled the child sex abuse case against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Kane asked for the judge supervising the grand jury to authorize the release of what she said are a trove of more pornographic and racially or religiously offensive emails. She says far more people are involved than previously disclosed.
She also asked the state's disciplinary board to halt possible action to take away her law license, which would make her ineligible to hold office.
"Today I'm calling for the whole story to come out,'' Kane said.
Kane has said she has no plans to quit her post or take a leave. She left the news conference after reading her prepared statement and declined to take questions.
Kane, 49, won office in 2012, the first woman and first Democrat to be elected attorney general. She also is the highest-ranking woman in Pennsylvania state government.
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Kane portrayed herself in the past as a political target for taking on what she described as a corrupt, old-boy law enforcement network and exposing state employees who exchanged pornographic emails.
But a growing number of Democratic officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, have called on her to step down. Her critics worry the charges have damaged the office's credibility and her legal battle will distract her from the responsibilities of her positon.
A citizen's complaint filed with the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board may also set in motion a suspension of Kane's law license that could force her out of office. The state constitution requires the attorney general to have a law license.
Prosecutors have also accused Kane of instructing some of her staff to monitor employee emails as the grand jury was wrapping up its investigation of her in late 2014.
Patrick Reese, a former police chief who is Kane's driver and head of her security detail, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a contempt charge involving allegations that he violated a judge's protective order by accessing emails in a state computer system to keep tabs on the grand jury investigation for his boss.