Cracking on Stand, Ex-Kane Aide Says He Lied to Protect Self & AG

 

Morrow: “What is the saying about revenge?”
Kane: “Best served cold, are we emailing out soon?”
Morrow: “Yes, I hope you enjoy the read in the next few days.”

By LANA MORELLI 

 

      NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) — A former aide to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane looked on in horror Thursday morning as prosecutors played a recording of him discussing politically motivated document leaks.
     Kane, the first woman and first Democrat ever elected to attorney general in Pennsylvania, has been on trial all week on charges that she leaked grand jury information to embarrass her political enemies.
     This morning prosecutors rolled tape on a secretly recorded phone conversation between political consultant Josh Morrow and his friend from April 22, 2014.
     During his turn on the witness stand, Morrow’s face contorted as the audio filled the courtroom.
     “She has no cohesive strategy,” Morrow said in the tape. “It’s just like, throw shit against the wall and see what sticks. She is unhinged. If the strategy is to release the documents to the reports, I’m like fine with that, but this makes no sense.”
      With prosecutors noting that FBI Agent Christopher Beam authenticated the recording, Morrow admitted on the stand that he lied to the grand jury.
     “I was trying to protect Kathleen,” Morrow said. “She was my friend, and getting her elected was a very proud moment for me, but the lies started to unravel.”
     Having previously been held in contempt for refusing to testify against Kane, Morrow took the stand today as part of an immunity deal.
     Morrow said he has “absolutely” been concerned about being prosecuted for “concocting this cover-up story.”
     The leaks occurred during Kane’s second year in office after the Philadelphia Inquirer had broken a story that brought her bad publicity.
     Prosecutors say Kane believed Frank Fina, a former state prosecutor, had leaked the information behind the story to the Inquirer.
     To exact political retribution, according to the charges, she arranged for the Philadelphia Daily News to receive secret grand jury materials intimating that Fina had fumbled a 2009 investigation of Philadelphia civil rights leader J. Whyatt Mondesire.
      Kane’s former first deputy attorney general, Adrian King, has denied any knowledge of a leak, but the 2014 Morrow recording undermines his denials.
     “Kathleen called me today, and was like, Adrian has documents for you to leak out … all bullshit about Frank Fina killing the Mondesire investigation,” Morrow said in the tape.
     During his turn on the stand earlier Thursday, King insisted that he had no knowledge of the leaks.
     “They’re trying to frame me,” King exclaimed on the stand, referencing both Morrow and Kane.
     When Kane’s defense counsel cornered King about his apparent skirting of procedure to get Kane’s signature on wiretap requests, the witness became enraged.
     “So, what you’re saying is, she tried to set me up on that as well,” King hissed.
     Kane, 50, sat stoic and calm during the tense questioning by her attorney, Seth Farber. Wearing a bright blue suit, Kane leaned forward in her chair, with her chin in her hand, listening intently to the testimony.
     “I was her chief deputy” said King, whom the Inquirer has reported used to date Kane when both were law students at Temple University.
     “I would like to have thought I would have been briefed,” King added.
     Though King said he had no knowledge of the leaked information about Fina until the Daily News article went to press, prosecutors say King referred to the documents in testifying last year about a “package” he received from Kane.
     Montgomery County District Attorney Steele had King read aloud a portion this January 2015 testimony aloud in court today.
     “She [Kane] said, oh, you know, I have a package I have to get to Josh Morrow, can you take that down to Philadelphia for me,” King’s testimony says. “I said sure. … I’m just getting the envelope.”
     King told the court the testimony proves nothing.
     “I’ve been telling the truth since the beginning,” King said before he stepped down from the stand.
     A reference to the “package” also appears in the 2014 Morrow recording.
     “Adrian said he had it and would leave it in his front door, for me to pick up,” Morrow told his friend.
     “I picked up a yellow envelope, with a metal clasp on the back, from King’s house in Chestnut Hill.”
     Morrow added that when he opened the envelope, he found “a folder that had my name hand printed on it, with a blue-back binder that had a transcript, a memo and two emails.”
     Morrow had been Kane’s communications director prior to her election in November 2012.
     “I get people elected,” he brashly said in court.
     Under questioning from prosecutor Michelle Henry, Morrow admitted that he lied in saying Kane had never seen the documents, “and that Adrian King told me about the documents.”
     “And you discussed that false story with her [Kane]?” Henry asked.
     “Yes,” Morrow said.
     “We conspired to tell this story that was untrue…to protect Kathleen and myself,” Morrow admitted.
     Morrow also testified about why he began cooperating with prosecutors.
     “I didn’t want to carry the burden of this secret anymore,” he said, noting that he turned over his electronic devices to the authorities just weeks ago.
     Morrow’s testimony continued this afternoon after a lunch break.
     Earlier Thursday, prosecutors also called to the stand Detective David Schanes and Detective Bradbury to corroborate the messages retrieved from Morrow.
     Rounding out the morning set of witnesses were Wanda Scheib and Robert Speicher, both of whom testified about secrecy oaths.
     Schieb has worked in the Harrisburg office of the attorney general since 1992 and was a notary for 16 years. She said she is no longer a notary because of this case.
     When the Fina news leaked, and Scheib read the criminal charges against Kane, Scheib said she was worried because she knew she notarized the grand juries that Kane was claiming had not been signed.
     “So, I struggled with it … do I say something or don’t I?” Scheib said timidy. “I mean, she was the head of our agency.”
     Despite her worries about losing her job, Scheib said she called Bruce Beemer, Kane’s former first deputy “because I knew I could trust him.”
     Prosecutors called Beemer to the stand on Day 1 of trial.
     Scheib said Kane contradicted herself in former statements where she said “it wouldn’t be right to sign a historical secrecy oath.”
     Speeicher is a senior supervisor and special agent in the office of attorney general.
Afternoon Update:
     Back on the stand after the lunch recess, Morrow confirmed that the transcript and memos in the “package” all related to the Mondesire case.
     Deputy Attorney General William Davis Jr. wrote the memos, which he sent to Fina, and Fina’s emails from 2009 were in the package as well.
     Morrow testified that he did not go to a reporter with the package until late April or mid-May 2014.
     “I contacted Chris Brennan, a reporter I’ve known for many years,” Morrow said, referring to the Daily News staffer who broke the Fina story.
     Explaining why he delayed reaching out to Brennan, Morrow noted that his fiancee was running for Congress at the time, and he was working on the campaign.
     He said he redacted the names of anyone other than Fina and former prosecutor Marc Costanzo with a Sharpie permanent marker.
     Morrow said he told reporter Brennan that Kane wanted the records public to “show that Frank Fina shut down an investigation.”
     While Morrow was on the stand, the prosecution projected text messages onto a large screen in the court that the witness exchanged with Kane on May 5, 2014.
Morrow: “What is the saying about revenge?”
Kane: “Best served cold, are we emailing out soon?”
Morrow: “Yes, I hope you enjoy the read in the next few days.”
Kane: “I think I will, can you give me a hint?”
Morrow: “Best be able to deny…but the daily news has 4 reporters on it, time for Frank to feel the heat”
Kane: “Josh you really get things done”
Morrow: “Just please kept his between us..,ery very small circle”
Kane: “I wont tell anyone”
     The prosecution also projected texts Kane and Morrow exchanged on May 7, 2014.

Morrow: “Oh man…Frank’s [Fina] response was priceless”
Kane: “Can you talk?”
Morrow: “Call me”
Kane: “In short, half home”
Morrow: “It’s time for your friends to fight back”
Kane: “I agree, I wish they would”
Morrow: “Happy to lead the charge”
     The text messages show that Kane was getting impatient after a few days.
     “Where is my story,” she texted Morrow on May 12. “I’m dying here while you are drinking.”
     Morrow called Chris Brennan that same week, according to phone records shown in court.
     On May 29, Brennan told Morrow, “it was about to be published.”
     Just days before the article was published, Morrow told Kane “our story was slated until Monday.”
Kane: “Anything about me. Please tell me.

Morrow: “You are fine in this. Do you think I would do that to you?”
Kane: “Of course not, but they would.”
     Brennan’s article appeared on June 6. A day before, Morrow texted Kane, “Gonna be a bad day for [former Attorney General Tom] Corbett and company.”
     Morrow admitted he was disappointed after the article was published. “It didn’t go after them the way we wanted,” Morrow said.
     He said he and Kane met for lunch on Aug. 14, 2014, but that the meeting was unusual.
     “Her security told me to meet Kathleen at the corner of 16th and Locust…I did not know where I was going, but they took me to a parking garage, took my cell phone, keys and wallet; they ‘wanded’ me down to see if I was wearing a recording device,” Morrow said. “Then they put me back in the car and drove me to lunch at the Belleview in Philadelphia.”
     A security detail sat at a separate table beside Morrow and Kane, and Kane apologized for “new” security measures, Morrow said.
     The purpose of the lunch was allegedly to discuss a plan of action.
     “It was that day that we made up the story about Adrian,” Morrow said.
     When Morrow met with Kane again in October 2014, he said he again underwent a “Mafioso- style” pat-down and had his personal items removed.
     This time Kane “was frantic,” Morrow said.
     “She kept saying, ‘I need help, I need help,'” Morrow testified.
     Though Morrow allegedly offered to help, he said the AG had no plan of action.
     At this time, Morrow was between Philadelphia and South America for work-related issues on an unrelated political campaign and wasn’t able to offer much aid to Kane.
     Morrow was served with the first subpoena for grand jury on Nov. 4, 2014, and testified 10 days later, via phone, because he was in South America.
     “I reiterated the lie she [Kane] and I decided on; that she never saw the documents and she gave an envelope to Adrian,” Morrow told the court today.
     On Nov. 18, after Morrow had testified for the second time, Morrow said he and Kane got on the phone.
     He said she too had testified to the grand jury, and they confirmed that they corroborated each other’s story.
     It was not until the past two weeks, however, following an immunity deal, that Morrow allowed authorities to access the messages he exchanged with Kane and King0.
     On cross-examination, an attorney with Kane’s defense team characterized the text message evidence as merely cryptic “chit-chat.”
     Attorney Seth Farber said the messages were taken out of context and do no implicate his client.
     Farber asked Morrow whether vague text messages referencing “enjoy the good read” could have been about any article.
     There was an article published about Morrow’s fiancee, for example, in May 2014 that the two could have been discussing.
     Farber also flagged the “can you give me a hint” message, saying it could have meant Kane misunderstood the topic, not that she was asking for a lead on the leak.
     “No,” Morrow interrupted. “She knew exactly what I was talking about.”
     Firing back, Farber noted that Morrow has already admitting to having lied to a grand jury.
     Morrow said he is being honest now. “I lied,” he said. “This is embarrassing for me personally and for my career, but I was given the opportunity to tell the truth, and I did.”
     The witness admitted that he received an updated immunity order only “just yesterday.”
     Whether the jury will find him credible remains to be seen. Defense witnesses will begin testifying when the trial resumes Friday. Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy is presiding.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/08/11/cracking-on-stand-ex-kane-aide-says-he-lied-to-protect-self-ag.htm