Kathleen Kane’s driver loses appeal, ordered to jail in email snooping case

Patrick Reese, a member of Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s security team, arraigned at Montgomery County Court House in Norristown on charges of indirect criminal contempt Aug. 11, 2015.
Patrick Reese, a member of Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s security team, arraigned at Montgomery County Court House in Norristown on charges of indirect criminal contempt Aug. 11, 2015. Digital First Media file photo

NORRISTOWN >> A onetime member of former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s security detail will spend the holidays behind bars after losing the appeal of his contempt conviction for accessing email messages related to a grand jury that investigated Kane for grand jury leaks.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to hear Patrick Rocco Reese’s appeal of his December 2015 conviction, according to Montgomery County prosecutors.

Under an agreement reached with prosecutors, Reese, 50, of Dunmore, Lackawanna County, will surrender to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility at 9 a.m. Nov. 13 to begin serving his three-to-six-month sentence, forcing him to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas behind bars.

Judge William R. Carpenter, who presided over Reese’s trial, issued an order on Wednesday outlining Reese’s date of surrender.

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Reese’s conviction previously was upheld by the state Superior Court.

During a two-day trial in December 2015, Reese, who also once served as the police chief of Dunmore Township, was convicted by Judge Carpenter of a misdemeanor indirect criminal contempt charge. In March 2016, Carpenter sentenced Reese to the county jail term, a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service in connection with his conduct.

But Reese, who had been a supervisory special agent on Kane’s executive protection detail and once acted as Kane’s driver, had been permitted to remain free on bail pending his appeal and until the full and final disposition of his case in the Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court was under no obligation to hear Reese’s appeal. On Oct. 31, the Supreme Court declined to hear Reese’s appeal, according to county District Attorney Kevin R. Steele.

With the contempt charge against Reese, prosecutors accused Reese of violating an Aug. 27, 2014, order issued by Carpenter, which barred employees of the Office of Attorney General from accessing documents related to the 35th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury that investigated Kane. Carpenter was supervising judge of the grand jury overseeing the Kane investigation.

Authorities claimed Reese accessed an email archiving system to review emails pertaining to the grand jury investigation. Prosecutors previously implied Reese was ordered to conduct the prohibited searches by his boss, referring at the time to Kane.

In his appeal, Reese argued Carpenter should have recused himself from the trial because authorities identified Carpenter as one of the individuals Reese searched in the email archiving system.

But the Superior Court, in affirming Reese’s conviction earlier this year, found there was no reason for the judge to have recused himself and that the judge could fairly and impartially preside over the case.

Reese, in his appeal, also challenged the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence, claiming that there was no evidence to show that Reese actually viewed any of the emails or opened the attachments. Furthermore, defense lawyers argued in the appeal that there was no evidence to indicate Reese was ever aware of, or had specific notice of, the Aug. 27 protective order issued by Carpenter.

Reese, the defense claimed at trial, wasn’t searching for information regarding the grand jury investigation of Kane but for information about who in the office was leaking grand jury information to the media.

But prosecutors argued that through a combination of circumstantial and direct evidence they proved Reese was fully aware of the protective order and what it forbade, and that in spite of that knowledge, engaged in many wrongful searches aimed at obtaining information about the grand jury investigation of Kane.

In August 2016, a jury convicted Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor who was elected attorney general in 2012 and was considered a rising star among Democrats, of felony charges of perjury and misdemeanor charges of obstructing administration of law, official oppression, false swearing and conspiracy. Prosecutors said Kane orchestrated the illegal disclosure of secret grand jury information to the media and then engaged in acts designed to conceal and cover up her conduct.

Kane, 51, a first-term Democrat and the first woman ever to be elected to the state post, was sentenced in October 2016 to 10-to-23-months in the county jail and eight years of probation, for a total of 10 years of court supervision. A judge ultimately permitted Kane to remain free on $75,000 cash bail pending the outcome of her appeal which is currently pending before the state Superior Court.

Kane resigned as attorney general two days after her conviction. Reese was fired from his job.

The case against Reese was largely circumstantial and the law allowed for a conviction based on wholly circumstantial evidence, according to testimony.

Trial testimony revealed the attorney general’s office’s so-called Evault system stored all emails that are sent or received by the department’s employees. The Evault system is restricted to those employees who are granted access and have a user account and password and Reese was granted limited access in March 2014 as a “reviewer,” someone who can view the content of, search for, and print emails.

Between Sept. 9 and Dec. 30, 2014, testimony revealed, the account under Reese’s name was used to conduct query searches using terms such as “Carpenter,” “perjury,” “removal from office,” as well as a portion of the private email address for Thomas E. Carluccio, who was appointed special prosecutor for the grand jury investigating Kane.

Testimony revealed the emails obtained through the searches contained such information as dates that witnesses were to appear before the grand jury, discussions about the protective order and attachments that included subpoenas for grand jury witnesses and even the identity of a grand juror.

Prosecutors also claimed Reese, who was Kane’s driver when she was on state business, was considered a personal confidant of Kane. In the charging documents against him, witnesses told prosecutors that Reese was considered the “go between” with Kane.