Kane: State police chief, DEP secretary among those receiving porn e-mails

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said in a statement, "It is in the public's best interest to have a good understanding of how its public servants conduct their business."
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said in a statement, "It is in the public's best interest to have a good understanding of how its public servants conduct their business." (AP)
Posted: September 27, 2014

HARRISBURG - At least eight prominent state officials - including the head of the state police, Pennsylvania's top environmental regulator, and a former spokesman for Gov. Corbett - were among commonwealth employees who sent or received hundreds of sexually explicit photos, videos, and messages from state e-mail accounts between 2008 and 2012, according to documents made available Thursday by the state Attorney General's Office.

Following a court battle and public record requests from The Inquirer and other news organizations, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office named the eight recipients and showed reporters some of the pornographic material it said traveled over state-owned computers during work hours.

The recipients include Frank Noonan, the current state police commissioner; E. Christopher Abruzzo, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection; and Kevin Harley, who had been Corbett's top spokesman both when Corbett was attorney general and after he became governor.

None responded to requests for comment.

All three men worked for the Attorney General's Office when Corbett headed the agency. Noonan and Abruzzo were elevated to cabinet posts when Corbett became governor.

Jay Pagni, Corbett's spokesman, said he did not know if the governor had spoken to Noonan or Abruzzo or if he would take action against them.

In an interview, he said: "The images described in these news accounts are unacceptable and have no place in the work environment. It is [the governor's] expectation of those who work for him that they perform with the utmost professionalism and are guided by high ethical standards beyond reproach."

The e-mails include photos and videos of women and men engaged in oral sex, anal sex, and intercourse. The videos have titles such as "Cigar," "Chin strap," "Golf Ball washer," and "Rocking Horse." The photographs included naked women and motivational posters, with slogans such as "Devotion" and "Willingness," that depicted women performing sex acts on their male bosses.

The existence of the pornographic e-mails had been rumbling for months in Harrisburg, after they were retrieved during Kane's internal inquiry into how her predecessors handled the case of pedophile Jerry Sandusky.

In a statement explaining her decision to release the names, the office said: "Attorney General Kane believes it is in the public's best interest to have a good understanding of how its public servants conduct their business. She also believes transparency on this issue is a very good way to help ensure that the exchanging of sexually explicit materials through internal e-mails on state-owned equipment during official work hours doesn't happen elsewhere."

In fulfilling outstanding Right-to-Know requests from The Inquirer and other news outlets for the records, the prosecutor's office agreed to make available a sampling of the e-mails and their contents.

Kane was not present Thursday when three employees - two of them technicians - used a laptop to show reporters the images and videos they said they had retrieved from the officials' e-mails.

They did not show the actual e-mails. They also could not say specifically if the messages had been opened or forwarded, provide the dates and times they were sent, or determine if the pornography had been viewed by the intended recipients, or sent to others.

Only two of the roughly 80 videos and images - from among many others - that they made available were sent by the eight officials named. The office later offered a list that showed how many explicit e-mails each of the men sent and received over the four-year span. Of the group, Noonan was the only one to receive e-mails but not send any.

Other porn mail recipients include former ranking prosecutors Patrick Blessington, who now works with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office; Glen Parno, former chief of the environmental crimes section of the Attorney General's Office, who now works in the Department of Environmental Protection; Chris Carusone, who played a key role in corruption prosecutions of state legislators and was Corbett's former liaison to the legislature; Richard A. Sheetz, former executive deputy attorney general in the office's Criminal Law division; and retired agent Randy Feathers, the onetime regional director of the office's Bureau of Narcotics Investigations. He was appointed by Corbett to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.

Each either declined to comment or could not be reached.

News of the names exploded like a bomb both in the Capitol and in political circles.

There is no indication that Corbett, who served as attorney general until early 2011, was aware of the e-mail exchanges. The governor has said he learned about them in recent months. Polls have suggested the Republican is fighting for his political life in November's election.

Critics of Kane, a Democrat who has engaged in multiple battles with her predecessors, privately questioned her motives and the timing of the release. The eight men named by Kane worked in the office under Corbett.

Sources familiar with the material have told The Inquirer that the investigation has determined that many more state employees, including top jurists and 30 current employees of Kane's office, were also involved in exchanging sexually explicit e-mails.

Representatives of the office said provisions in state worker contracts precluded Kane from releasing the names of current employees identified as sending or receiving the e-mails.

Kane's office has declined to provide any more information about the e-mails, including how many people in total received them.

Until last week, a judge had prevented Kane from deciding whether to even grant the news outlets' claims to see the documents because former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, who led the Sandusky investigation, had sought to block their release.

It was not immediately clear why Fina was seeking a protective order. Fina, who now works for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, could not be reached for comment.

Fina and Kane have been locked in an increasingly ugly battle during the last year over how high-profile cases were handled. Most recently, the tension between the two has resulted in a special prosecutor's being appointed to investigate whether Kane's office leaked secret grand jury material involving a case Fina handled in 2009.


acouloumbis@phillynews.com

717-787-5934 @AngelasInk

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