Attorney General Kathleen Kane and her chief of staff denied two investigators promotions because they testified in a state grand jury investigation that Kane was trying to stop, the investigators claim in a federal lawsuit.

Michael Cranga and Michael Carlson are career investigators caught up in the public fight between Kane and her former prosecutors, said their lawyer James Kutz.

"They're being damaged badly," he said.

The First Amendment lawsuit filed Monday in Harrisburg against Kane and Jonathan Duecker, her chief of staff, seeks a court order protecting them from further retaliation as well as giving them the promotions they were denied, Kutz said.

Kane and Duecker haven't reviewed the lawsuit and have no comment, said Jeff Johnson, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

All are tied to Kane's alleged attempt to derail a bribery investigation that has led to four Philadelphia-area elected officials pleading guilty and another pleading no contest. A sixth official is awaiting trial.

Carlson and Cranga were instrumental in the investigation, which started in the attorney general's office. When Kane took office, she claimed the investigation of her fellow Democrats was legally flawed and racially motivated because all of the officials are black.

Her refusal to pursue the case was made public by her former chief deputy, Frank Fina. He and four former prosecutors and agents sued Kane claiming that she retaliated against them for exposing what they say are criminal and ethical violations.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a black Democrat, took up the investigation and has prosecuted the six officials. The grand jury he convened subpoenaed Carlson and Cranga in October, and they defied Kane's order to stall their testimony while she tried to quash the subpoenas, the lawsuit says.

Because Kane was publicly saying they were lousy, racist investigators, "They were more than happy to testify to the DA and the grand jury," Kutz said.

In April, Carlson and Cranga were denied promotions that went to others with significantly less experience and training, Kutz said.

Kane, 49, of Scranton is charged with 12 criminal counts in Montgomery County, related to grand jury material from a 2009 case that was leaked to the Philadelphia Daily News. Fina claims she leaked the information to embarrass him after he revealed her role in trying to stop the bribery investigation.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301.