Porngate Claims Its Newest Victim, Part II

ADA Mark “Pitbull” Gilson finally put down

Porngate has never been the correct moniker for an email chain circulating among law enforcement officers, lawyers, and judges that includes vicious misogyny, racism, and homophobia. It has also served to trivialize former Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s efforts — precursor to #MeToo and #TimesUp — to tear down the old boys network behind it as merely another PC attack on “locker room talk,” innocuous “tawdry behavior” and nothing more.


The misnomer has also taken the spotlight away from one other aspect of Kane’s tenure in office: the refusal to prosecute African-American state legislators caught in what she believed was a racially motivated sting operation launched by Deputy Attorneys General in the prior administration.


Earlier this month, the spotlight turned back onto Mark Gilson, the Philadelphia prosecutor who had denied allegations that selective prosecution targeted black legislators and then continued prosecution despite those allegations. Shorty after taking office, District Attorney Krasner fired the career prosecutor.


While Krasner has refused to discuss any of his dismissals (now adding up to roughly 10% of the attorneys in his office), here’s our take on why Gilson was let go and why we applaud the move.


First, the backstory as the Allentown Morning Call reported:

“When the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the probe in March [2014], Kane responded by calling it ‘half-assed’ and ‘dead on arrival,’ leveling claims that investigators were told to focus on the state Legislature's Black Caucus, that the sting amounted to entrapment, and that the informant at the center of the case was not credible.”


[Former DA Seth Williams then convened a grand jury for the purpose of indicting the black legislators Kane refused to prosecute.]

“[The Philadelphia] grand jury reviewed documents produced by Kane's office under subpoena. They included an assessment of the case by now-First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer that purported to document evidence of racial motivation in the investigation, but did not. ‘The only thing that was dead on arrival or half-assed was that report,’ said Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson, who handled the Philadelphia grand jury case.”


So, with a clear determination by a grand jury of no racial motivation in the targeting of the five legislators, and these legislators caught on tape taking cash and money from a Confidential Informant, Gilson had all the ammo he needed to throw the book at these legislators.

But that is far from what happened.


Gilson allowed three of the five to cop pleas that would give them no jail time and allow them to resign and keep their pension. It’s odd that Gilson thought this was appropriate for public officials caught taking bribes. It should be noted that Seth Williams, not caught on tape, taking bribes not linked to any official action, was sentenced to five years in prison for, what seems to be, far less egregious conduct.


Most enlightening, was the case of the fourth defendant to plea, State Senator Louise Bishop. As her attorney told reporters moments after he cut a deal allowing Bishop to plead no contest — a plea that would have her record expunged in six months: “the sweetheart deal that prosecutors offered Bishop was too good to turn down … And when I'm given an offer that I was given this morning, I need to go out now and have a drink to celebrate.” To which Mark Gilson responded: "I'm battin’ a thousand here. You understand that? This was not a half-assed, dead-on-arrival investigation … I haven't even had a problem. These people show up at this hearing and they give up without a fight.”

Here’s what DA Krasner knows. It wasn’t the legislators that were giving up without a fight, it was Gilson. The sweetheart plea deals Gilson gave them, after having them caught on tape taking bribes, is the very proof of what Kane was saying about the sting operation all along: that it was racially motivated and unprosecutable.


It wasn’t Gilson who was “battin’ 1000”, it was the legislators: none of whom saw jail time and all of whom today are collecting their pensions.


What undermines our criminal justice system far more than refusing to prosecute legislators is allowing these legislators to walk and take their pensions with them, because an ADA knows they can’t take their cases to trial for fear of exposing a racially targeted sting.

Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out, Mr. Gilson.


Next week: DA faces press backlash.


Porngate Claims Its Newest Victim, Part II

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