We need to know the truth about 'the sting'

Posted: April 08, 2014

LET'S AGREE on two things about the controversial sting on Philadelphia pols.

One, we still don't know who's right and who's wrong about how it was handled.

Two, in its aftermath, individual and institutional rehab is in order.

This is true for state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whose rising-star reputation got sucked into a black hole from which it remains to be retrieved.

It's true for the Legislature; once again tarnished, once again exposed for ethical lethargy and ongoing failures to promote public trust.

It's true for prosecutors from whom we expect pursuit of blind justice, not pursuit of personal agendas or racist prosecution.

And it's true for four individual legislators who appear to have no acquaintance with state law, common sense or principled behavior.

You know the bare bones: sting catches Philly Dems taking cash; Inquirer reports Kane kills it saying it was poorly run, targeting African-Americans; those who ran sting says she's wrong; Kane hires uber-defense/libel lawyer Richard A. Sprague.

Now, because we are willing to believe the worst about our elected and appointed leaders (often with good reason), all involved are suspect.

But that could change.

Issues surrounding the confidential informant who wore a wire in exchange for having charges against him dropped, and questions regarding prosecutorial discretion - who's right/who's wrong - could soon be answered.

That's if, as expected, Dauphin County President Judge Todd Hoover agrees to unseal documents related to the case.

The Daily News, Inquirer and several other news organizations have asked for this to happen. A decision by Hoover could come as soon as today.

That could mean much more specific information from Kane - who so far offers broad, sometimes sketchy answers to key questions (or no real proof of her assertions) on grounds that many case details are hidden under seal.

So let's see what proof emerges to support either one of two arguments.

The first is Kane killed a sting to protect fellow Democrats and/or because she's (fill in the blank) an inexperienced, lame or in-over-her-head prosecutor.

The second is Kane was set up for a fall by former state prosecutor Frank Fina in order to discredit her, her office and her investigation of Fina's handling of the Jerry Sandusky case under then-Attorney General Tom Corbett.

A lot's at stake.

Kane's overdue Sandusky investigation could significantly impact this year's governor's race and Kane's political future.

If any new details about the sting don't back Kane's story, her credibility becomes limited to immediate friends and family.

But if she proves a set up, a racist agenda under Fina, who now works for Philly D.A. Seth Williams, Fina's credibility is gone and Williams' office is compromised.

As to rehab, Kane needs it.

Her image as an independent, anti-insider is marred, especially by hiding behind quintessential insider Sprague.

She needs full-detail media events to show proof of her positions, answer all questions and announce that Sprague is standing down.

The Legislature needs rehab.

Its reaction since news that four of its own took thousands in unreported cash?

The House moved from an eyes-shut policy of "take whatever you can get" to a wink-wink policy that says "no cash, but (wink-wink) money orders, sports tickets, travel, prepaid credit cards, gold nuggets, whatever else you can get is fine."

The Senate is expected to follow suit.

This is nonsense. Leaders need to begin earning public trust by banning all gifts.

The stung lawmakers - Reps. Ron Waters, Michelle Brownlee, Louise Bishop, Vanessa Brown - probably face no more than wrist-slaps for not reporting gifts.

This, too, is nonsense. For the sake of the institution, they should leave it.

Our best hope for the sting case is that hard truth emerges from the soft fog of assertions regarding racism and prosecutorial misconduct or incompetence.

We have a right to the truth. We have a right to better, more honest government. And we can't have the latter without the former.

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