Ex-attorney general acquitted in drunken driving case

Dec 19, 2022, 1:16 AM | Updated: 3:29 pm

Pennsylvania’s former top law enforcement officer, who once served jail time for leaking secret investigative files and lying about it, was acquitted Monday of drunken driving.

A Lackawanna County judge acquitted former Attorney General Kathleen Kane of drunken driving and careless driving after a one-day bench trial in Scranton.

Kane, 56, was charged by Scranton police after she got into a minor car crash March 12.

Police said Kane told officers she was a designated driver, but surveillance video showed Kane herself had been drinking alcohol at a Scranton restaurant shortly before the crash, according to a police affidavit. Officers asserted Kane had watery, bloodshot eyes, slurred her words and failed a field sobriety test.

Kane’s lawyer, Jason Mattioli, said police body camera footage showed her entering and exiting a vehicle without difficulty. He added that officers made her take the field sobriety test on a snow- and ice-covered parking lot in driving wind.

“She was set up to fail,” he said in a phone interview after the verdict.

Kane was taken to a DUI processing center, where other law enforcement officers and staff said they did not smell alcohol on her or detect impairment, Mattioli said.

Police said Kane refused a blood test.

Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said he was disappointed in the judge’s decision.

“Given the strength of the evidence we presented, I struggle to understand how the judge could find her not guilty,” he said via email.

Once a rising star in Pennsylvania politics, Kane was the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state’s top prosecutor. She resigned after being convicted in 2016 of perjury, obstruction and other counts for leaking secret investigative files to embarrass a rival prosecutor.

Kane served eight months of a 10-to-23 month sentence. She was was released in 2019.

Kane entered treatment three days after the car crash, then reported to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility outside Philadelphia on April 29.

Kane appeared in Montgomery County Court last May and admitted she violated her probation when she was arrested for drunken driving. She was sentenced to two months to a year of jail, but was given credit for time already served.

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Ex-attorney general acquitted in drunken driving case