Monday, March 25, 2019

Will Slippery Frank Fina Beat The Rap Again?


By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

In oral arguments today before the state Disciplinary Board, Amelia C. Kittredge urged a panel of judges to "simply apply some common sense" and finally reign in former Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina, whom she accurately pegged as an "overzealous prosecutor."

Kittredge, a lawyer for the state's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, has been stalking the ethically-challenged Fina for a couple of years now. She told the Disciplinary Board that Fina broke "the most revered" and "sacred" legal privilege of them all, the attorney-client privilege, and for that he deserves to be publicly censured.

Fina does have a proven track record of leaking grand jury secrets, trampling on constitutional rights of the accused, and blowing off legal ethics, but for years his brazen conduct been protected in the courts by what some would describe as the old-boys network. But Kittredge pummeled away at Fina today, saying the Disciplinary Board cannot allow Fina to basically use a loophole to "obliterate" a longstanding rule of professional conduct that's the only defense against an overzealous prosecutor like Fina who seeks to subvert the most basic protection afforded by the criminal justice system, by turning a defendant's own lawyer into a witness against him.

That's just what Fina is accused of doing on Oct. 22, 2012, when he told Judge Barry Feudale that he wanted to call Cynthia Baldwin, Penn State's general counsel, as a witness against three of her clients, but Fina told the judge that he wouldn't get into any areas of questioning that would violate the attorney-client privilege.

But on Oct. 26, 2012, when Fina questioned Baldwin in front of the grand jury, he "did elicit" what the disciplinary board counsel described as "extensive . . .  attorney-client privileged communications as well as "confidential information" pertaining to Baldwin's three former clients -- Penn State president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz, and athletic director Tim Curley.

Fina is accused of breaking Rule 3.10 of the Rules of Professional Conduct which states: "A public prosecutor or other government lawyer shall not, without prior judicial approval, subpoena an attorney to appear before a grand jury or other tribunal investigating criminal activity in circumstances where the prosecutor or other government lawyer seeks to compel the attorney/witness to provide evidence concerning a person who is or has been represented by the attorney/witness."

According to Kittredge, Fina deliberately misled the judge into not holding a hearing to seek prior approval before getting what he wanted behind closed doors from Baldwin, namely weaponizing the general counsel, and turning her into a witness who testified in secret grand jury proceedings against her own clients.

The actions of Fina and Baldwin were condemned by Lawrence J. Fox, a longtime Philadelphia lawyer who's a visiting lecturer at the Yale Law School, who was as an expert witness at Disciplinary Board hearings last June.

"When lawyers feign representation, but in fact abandon their clients, and worse yet, become instrumentalities of the state, aiding the prosecution of their clients, the entire system of justice is systematically destroyed," Fox wrote.

In a separate action, the state Disciplinary Board has asked the state Supreme Court, which will also have the final say on Fina, to publicly censure Baldwin for abandoning her clients.

When Baldwin testified against her three former clients, according to Kittredge, those clients "astoundingly" were "not present or notified" that they were being sold down the river. Fina's lawyers, however, have claimed that the three former clients should have known that Baldwin was representing the university as a legal entity, and not the three officials individually.

After the hearings, a three-lawyer Disciplinary Board committee in January issued an opinion recommending that the charges be dismissed against Fina because of a technicality, that Fina's name was not on the subpoena issued by the state attorney general's office that summoned Baldwin to the grand jury.

Kittredge told the panel of judges today that the hearing committee had seized on a "non-issue here," namely the technicality of which prosecutor's name was on the subpoena issued by the state attorney general's office.

Former Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer signed the subpoena of Baldwin, but it was Fina who questioned Baldwin in the grand jury. According to Kittredge, if the hearing committee's decision is allowed to stand, the protection afforded by Rule 3.10 of the Rules of Professional Conduct would be "obliterated" by prosecutors as long as they get one of their colleagues to sign their name on a subpoena whenever they're dragging a lawyer into the grand jury to convince them to testify against their client.

In response, Dennis C. McAndrews, on behalf of Fina, basically did a tap dance routine that involved plenty of feigned outrage and references to the noble crusade Fina was on before he was turning Baldwin into a cooperator. McAndrews referred to Fina's dogged pursuit of convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky, and subsequent pursuit of Penn State officials who allegedly covered up Sandusky's crimes.

We now know, however, that previously undisclosed federal investigation determined that there was no official cover up at Penn State, because there was no sex crime to cover up.

"This is an extraordinary case," McAndrews declared. He claimed that no public prosecutor has ever been sanctioned for what Fina is accused of.  McAndrews cited five opinions by two judges in the case that covered for Slippery Frank, saying he didn't do anything wrong.

Fina is a noted escape artist. One of his most famous tricks was when Sandusky's lawyers went after Fina for numerous leaks in the case that could have only come from the prosecutors. Fina's defense: he tried to set a trap for the "real leakers," much like O.J. Simpson's search for the "real killers," but couldn't find them.

The judge, however, bought it, and Frank Fina was off the hook for leaking.

In the disciplinary board case against Fina, McAndrews said, no witnesses and no documents were introduced against Fina.

That's because for anybody who cares to read it, the court transcripts nail Fina's ass. But McAndrews kept dancing, and invoking that notorious serial pedophile that Fina was stalking, as well as the enablers of that pedophile.

If Fina was on such an important mission, one of the judges asked, wasn't that "all the more reason to do everything by the numbers?"

Exactly. Let's hope this time Fina gets what he so richly deserves.

Someone to finally hold him accountable.

11 comments:

  1. It will surprise me if they rule against Fina, not because he is innocent, but because the PA judicial system is so corrupt.

    Fina's recent "noble crusade" has been defending a Penn State frat boy in the fraternity hazing death case. He seems to be getting the best of the prosecutors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. More of the hackneyed, broken record, cover my ass "we put a monster in the slammer" rhetoric even though we suborned perjury, fabricated evidence and victims, and lied our asses off. Frank (the rat) Fina must have sent some mighty fine porn to the judges he has in his pocket. The corruption is monumental. Res ipse loquitor.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is equally enlightening and gratifying to read your posts that explore the corrupt machinations of celebrated Legal Cases and rendered decisions of the Court.

    In this Age of Trump, the greatest test will be an ethical and honest review of the Power of Fair and Equal Justice Under the Law.

    As long as the Media can pick their Winners and Weasels without being held accountable for pushing a false narrative and run with leaks, frpm favored parties, this Country is doomed and the Legions of Stooges that graduate Law Schools will continue to infect and kill Society.

    When a News Organization like CNN hires Legal Experts who are Criminal Extortionists like Avenatti and Geragos they know well in advance that they are complicit in conspiracies as their standard practice. A seasoned FBI Agent commented today"... Lawyers are expected to practice law, not weaponize their legal skills to break the Law.

    It comes down to Greed. The Sports World has become the microcosm for the Ailing Public. Nike, Addidas and their partners in crime which include the NCAA and the Players Coaches Agents and Lawyers who
    have clearly abused the landscape but will they be investigative and prosecuted and face equal peril?

    Penn State was a great guinea pig and cretins like Fina and Freeh should get the treatment that they made others suffer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If Bruce Beemer was involved in this - how is he now the Commonwealth's Inspector General?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Frank (The Rat) Fina will indeed slip through the cracks, judges and lawyers do not want to discipline themselves. It's far easier to have a defendant pay the price than to discipline a representative of our government who disobeyed the rule of law.

    Who will listen to a defendant who tells of horrors at the hands of prosecutors? My thought is to discipline journalists who use leaked or tainted information to condemn a defendant. The press should not be exempt from discipline.

    What number Rule of Professional Conduct is broken when Action News arrives at a raid with the FBI?

    The media needs to be on board with calling out lying scheming prosecutors, who prey on citizens, instead of looking at them as future Pulitzer Prize informants and treating victims as criminals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous - I believe one thing that needs to be done is that the Journalism shield laws should be amended so journalists cannot shield a source that illegally leaked or perjured themselves denying they were the source.

      If Fina, or someone else sworn to keep grand jury matters secret, did leak to Ganim, then she should be forced to testify that he was the leaker.

      Delete
    2. Agreed, journalists should know better, erroding the rights of a defendant play into this crime as well and it is a crime. Defense attorneys should be able to question a journalist who has maligned a defendant denying them a fair trial, immunity laws shielding prosecutors should be eliminated.

      How are these basic understanding overlooked by journalists, how is condemning a defendant acceptable? When a journalist prints unfounded evidence they are no better than a prosecutor who invents a crime to gain a conviction for career advancement.

      Defendants need more control over their destiny than to be subject to a journalist looking to score some face time on a news channel. Defendants voices are silenced by the overpowering voices of journalists relaying false information, which ultimately gives the desired outcome a prosecutor wanted, a conviction.

      It should be illegal to give any information regarding a trial, a juror will be prepared enough to make a decision without the undue influence of the media. Journalist deny defendants basic civil rights.

      Delete
  6. Simply apply some common sense, that reasoning might work for a jury but a disciplinary board that needs to be shown how to connect the dots on Fina's egregious behavior, really?










    Simply apply some common sense, that reasoning might work for a jury but a disciplinary board that needs to be shown how to connect the dots on Fina's egregious behavior, really?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Even if the censure is approved by the PA Supreme Court, it seems like a mere slap on the wrist amounting to a little negative publicity.

    Does it have any real consequences or could Fina be back working for the Attorney General's office in a few years if a Republican is elected Attorney General again?

    ReplyDelete
  8. There is no doubt this is the tip of the corruption iceberg in Pennsylvania. Only in a town like Bellefonte, PA would you be able to get away with mis-representing a client like Amandola did to Sandusky; or violate all kinds of ethics rules as the prosecution did in this case. While it may not be in our lifetime this will go down as a prosecutorial #FAIL when everything is ironed out. It is unfortunate that the main stream media won't report on actual news like this; and instead continues to dish out fake news. I check this site every day for some real news pertaining to the beautiful state of PA. Appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ralph, what is the timeline for the release of the findings of the Disciplinary Board?

    As a professional master of reporting sworn testimony leaks and recriminations, we await with baited breath, your follow up on this hunt to mount Fina and Freeh's Head on the Penn State Goal Posts. It should not be stretched until the Opening Home Game.

    ReplyDelete

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