- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office cited leaks concerning secret grand jury proceedings Thursday in its firing of a prosecutor who testified before a grand jury that ultimately recommended that Kane be charged criminally for the same thing.

Kane issued a statement that linked James Barker’s dismissal to “supervisory accountability” amid a restructuring of the office’s criminal appeals and grand jury units that he oversaw.

“Restructuring was necessary for efficiency and tighter controls amid media reports of cases allegedly before a sitting grand jury,” Kane’s office said. “While not known yet who is specifically responsible for those leaks, supervisory accountability falls to the head of the unit.”

The office did not refer to any particular leaks.

Barker said Thursday he was given no reason for his abrupt dismissal. But his firing could prompt an official inquiry into whether it was connected to his testimony because of a grand jury judge’s protective order that he said was designed to shield witnesses from retaliation.

Kane’s office dismissed questions about whether Barker’s firing was related to his testimony before the grand jury, which was run by a court-appointed special prosecutor.

“The decisions on restructuring and personnel are about change to an office that desperately needed new leadership that is accountable and responsible to Pennsylvanians,” Kane’s office said. “There is not the slightest grain of truth to the notion that there is anything retaliatory about these restructuring and personnel changes. Any innuendo to the contrary is entirely false.”

Barker said he had had no disciplinary issues during his six years in charge of the office’s criminal appeals cases and grand juries.

Barker would not say exactly what he told the grand jury, which recommended in January that Kane face criminal charges stemming from allegations that her office gave secret investigative material to a newspaper last year.

As a witness in the grand jury investigation, however, Barker said he is covered by the protective order, issued last year by the grand jury judge, William Carpenter of Montgomery County.

Carpenter said Thursday that he could not comment because he had not had time to look into Barker’s firing. The grand jury recommended charges of perjury, obstruction, false swearing and official oppression, but its written report has not been disclosed publicly.

Kane maintains that she did not break the law.

Carpenter referred the grand jury’s recommendation to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who said last week that her office is reviewing it. She declined to comment Thursday on Barker’s firing, as did the special prosecutor, Montgomery County lawyer Thomas Carluccio.

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