- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - In a story Oct. 20 about the suspension of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, The Associated Press attributed a statement to an attorney for McCaffery, Dion Rassias. The statement was distributed by Frank Keel, who said Tuesday he wrongly attributed the comments to Rassias due to miscommunication. Keel, who described himself as an unofficial media adviser to the court, said the statement was from him.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Court justice suspended over role in porn scandal

Pennsylvania justice suspended over role in porn emails scandal; order cites other allegations

By MARK SCOLFORO

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended one of its members over his participation in a state government pornographic email scandal that involved employees of the attorney general’s office.

The justices issued an order saying Justice Seamus McCaffery may not perform any judicial or administrative duties while the matter is reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct.

The main order also noted allegations about McCaffery’s actions related to a traffic citation received by his wife, who is a lawyer, and referral fees she obtained while working for him as an administrative assistant. It also noted he “may have attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment” in Philadelphia.

The Judicial Conduct Board was given a month to determine whether there is probable cause to file a misconduct charge against McCaffery, a Philadelphia Democrat elected to the seven-member bench in 2007.

An advisor to McCaffery, Frank Keel, said they were confident he will be cleared and will soon return to the bench.

The court’s action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, that McCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012. McCaffery apologized, calling it a lapse in judgment, but blasted Castille for “a vindictive pattern of attacks” against him.

“Today’s action against Justice McCaffery should surprise no one, given Chief Justice Castille’s relentless crusade to destroy his career and reputation,” Keel said in a statement.

A third justice, Michael Eakin, also a Republican, on Friday went public with a claim McCaffery had threatened to leak “inappropriate” emails Eakin had received if he didn’t side with McCaffery against Castille.

McCaffery denied threatening Eakin, who reported the matter to the Judicial Conduct Board. Neither Eakin nor McCaffery participated in the court’s decision.

Castille was among the four justices voting to suspend McCaffery with pay, along with Max Baer, Corry Stevens and Thomas Saylor. Justice Debra Todd dissented, saying she would have referred the matter, including the question of suspension, to the Judicial Conduct Board.

A former judge, Robert Byer, who leads the appeals division of a large Pittsburgh-based law firm, was named the court’s special counsel. He declined to comment.

An internal review of how state prosecutors handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case turned up the email exchanges of pornographic images and videos. Four former employees of the office - the secretary of environmental protection, a lawyer in that agency, a member of the state parole board and a county prosecutor - have left their government jobs as a result.

Castille wrote Monday that no other justice in the past 20 years has done as much to bring the court into disrepute as McCaffery.

“It is more than a lapse in judgment - it has caused unmitigated turmoil in the justice system and has indirectly cost several state prosecutors and high ranking state officials their public careers,” Castille wrote.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who promised the Sandusky review during her 2012 campaign, has said current employees of the attorney general’s office also sent or received the emails and could face discipline.

Castille, responding to news reports that judges were involved, demanded any information Kane had concerning the participation of any justice, judge or district judge. Kane, a Democrat, turned over the emails linked to McCaffery, and Castille disclosed the results last Wednesday, saying no other justices were involved.

Castille said McCaffery sent most of the emails to an agent in the attorney general’s office, who then forwarded them to others.

McCaffery said “coarse language and crude jokes” were simply a part of his life as a Philadelphia policeman and a Marine. He wrote that Castille was out to get him and was “fixated on taking down a fellow justice with his misleading statements and incredible hypocrisy.”

The following day, Friday, Eakin publicly released his letter to the Judicial Conduct Board, which said McCaffery had told him in a Thursday telephone conversation he “was not going down alone.”

Eakin said McCaffery suggested he knew of emails involving Eakin and they would become public if Eakin didn’t persuade the chief justice by noon to retract statements he had made about McCaffery’s involvement in the porn scandal. Eakin said he refused and a few hours later a reporter approached him to ask about “racy” emails sent to Eakin’s private email account.

McCaffery denied threatening or coercing Eakin or having or leaking Eakin’s personal emails. He contended he had heard rumors involving emails to Eakin and he had been trying to prepare Eakin “for the same kind of media onslaught that I have endured.”

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