NORRISTOWN, Pa., Aug 6 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the first Democrat and first woman to be elected the state's top prosecutor, was charged with obstruction on Thursday for releasing confidential information and lying about it, the Montgomery County District Attorney's office said.
A special grand jury in January recommended charges of perjury and obstruction against Kane, 49, in connection with a leak to a Philadelphia newspaper.
Criminal charges filed on Thursday include obstructing administration of law or other government function, official oppression, criminal conspiracy, perjury and false swearing, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, a Republican, said at a news conference.
The charges against Kane stem from her feud with Frank Fina, a prosecutor for the former attorney general, Tom Corbett, over alleged delays in pursuing child sex abuse charges against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. During her 2012 campaign for office, Kane accused Corbett and Fina of postponing Sandusky's arrest to avoid angering Penn State fans prior to Corbett's successful run for governor in 2010.
The grand jury said Kane was not truthful in her sworn testimony about leaks to the Philadelphia Daily News. The newspaper in June 2014 wrote an article suggesting Fina had failed to properly investigate allegations of misuse of state funds by a Philadelphia civil rights activist, who was never charged.
The case against Kane makes her the second state attorney general this month to be charged with criminal activity, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was accused of securities fraud.
Kane is accused in court documents of leaking grand jury information to embarrass Fina and later lying about it under oath. Elected to office in 2012, Kane has denied she broke any laws.
"I intend to defend myself vigorously against these charges," Kane said in a statement.
If convicted of the charges, she would be forced to leave office.
Ferman also announced a charge of indirect criminal contempt against Kane's driver, Patrick Reese, who is accused of illegally obtaining information regarding the progress of the grand jury investigation.
The prosecutor suggested more suspects may be charged in the case, noting that Kane used a "political intermediary" to deliver the grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News.