HARRISBURG (AP) - The Pennsylvania attorney general's office said Wednesday a newspaper's account of explicit or offensive emails exchanged with state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin appears to be based on authentic messages.
A spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the office compared the emails in the hands of state prosecutors to descriptions in two Philadelphia Daily News stories over the past two weeks.
Kane recently provided the emails from Eakin's private Yahoo account in the name of "John Smith" to the state Supreme Court and several state ethics agencies, suggesting the content violates judicial conduct rules. Those rules require judges to be impartial, independent and avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
The newspaper said Eakin sent an email in 2010 to a deputy attorney general that included a joke about a doctor telling a woman who was beaten by her husband, "You see how much keeping your mouth shut helps?" A year earlier, the same prosecutor, Jeffrey Baxter, allegedly sent Eakin a video of a black woman complaining that President Barack Obama's efforts to create jobs would endanger her "government check."
A phone message left for Baxter, who works in the attorney general's Medicaid fraud section in North Huntingdon, was not immediately returned.
The Daily News said Eakin received a photoshopped picture of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky lurking behind actor Macaulay Culkin from the movie "Home Alone."
Other emails, the paper said, included a motivational poster with a topless woman and the caption, "Dear Abby: I'm an 18 year old girl from Arkansas and I'm still a virgin. Do you think my brothers are gay?"
Eakin did not respond to a phone message seeking comment left at his chambers in the Harrisburg suburbs on Wednesday.
Late Tuesday, Eakin issued a statement through the court system that said it was "disconcerting and embarrassing to find others searching years of private personal emails looking for and publicizing any insensitive content."
He apologized and said he would continue to cooperate with investigations by a Supreme Court-hired private attorney and the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of misconduct by judges in the state.
"Those who know me understand the items chosen for release do not reflect my character or beliefs, nor have they ever been part of my consideration of any case or business of the court," Eakin said in the release.
The email revelations surfaced as Kane fights criminal charges filed by a district attorney in Montgomery County, accusing her of leaking secret grand jury material to the Daily News last year and then lying to cover it up.
Eakin, who is four years away from the court's mandatory retirement age of 70, is a Republican former district attorney from Cumberland County.
Last year, Eakin contacted the Judicial Conduct Board to claim a colleague, Justice Seamus McCaffery, had threatened to leak "inappropriate" emails if Eakin did not take his side before the other justices voted to suspend McCaffery over his own role in sharing explicit emails.
McCaffery resigned last Oct. 27, a week after he was suspended, and the board dismissed the matter. McCaffery denied threatening Eakin.
The Daily News stories have raised questions among fellow justices and by the Judicial Conduct Board about how much was known about the details of Eakin's participation in the email circle last year.
"Last year, Eakin claimed to have self-reported himself to the Judicial Conduct Board," said Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo. "So the assumption has to be made that he told the board about the John Smith emails."
That's important, Ardo said, because "the board claims they didn't have all the emails. But if Eakin self-reported, then they should have had them."
On Friday, Judicial Conduct Board lawyer Bob Graci issued a news release that said news accounts about the emails demonstrated the board didn't have all the relevant information when it investigated a year ago.
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