HARRISBURG (AP) - A Pittsburgh newspaper has filed a motion in Dauphin County Court that seeks to unseal secret court records that detail a controversial sting operation targeting state lawmakers.
If granted, the request filed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and unsealed Tuesday would allow the paper to push for opening criminal court documents involving Tyron Ali, of Philadelphia.
Ali was allegedly an undercover operative who posed as a lobbyist and recorded five Philadelphia Democrats accepting cash or gifts in a state investigation, which was later dropped by Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
In the court filing, the Tribune-Review says the public and the press have a right to open court proceedings under the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions.
Ali's attorney, Robert Levant, declined to comment.
In a statement, Kane's office said she "continues to support openness and transparency. It is ultimately up to the judge to determine the status of the seal."
"Why shouldn't the people make their own decision about who is telling the truth in this case, rather than rely on politicians to characterize the information?" said James Cuddy Jr., managing editor of the Tribune-Review. "People ought to know whether their lawmakers are crooks."
Kane has said the sting operation she inherited could not be prosecuted and was flawed for reasons that include Ali's credibility, possible racial targeting and lack of quality controls.
Former Chief Deputy Frank Fina, who was the lead prosecutor in the case and is now with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, has said the investigation was a carefully plotted probe that had built a strong case against its initial targets and could have been expanded to ensnare others.
A broader coalition of news organizations expected to file a similar motion to the Tribune-Review will include The Associated Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News and PennLive.com, Lancaster Newspapers, publishers of the New Era and Intelligencer Journal; the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and The (Allentown) Morning Call. The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition also is expected to join in the filing on Wednesday.
"This is a very important case to the state of Pennsylvania," said Sally Hale, the AP bureau chief in Philadelphia and president of the information coalition.
Although the Tribune-Review motion has been made public, more than a dozen other documents remain under seal.