Former Pennsylvania Atty. Gen. Kathleen Kane was sentenced Monday to 10 to 23 months in jail for illegally disclosing details from a grand jury investigation to embarrass a rival and then lying about it under oath.
Kane was also sentenced to eight years of probation by a Montgomery County judge who said Kane’s ego drove her to take down enemies and break the law. After the sentencing, Kane was led out a side door with her hands cuffed in front of her, flanked by deputies.
Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy said Kane assumed an “off with your heads” mentality as she ran the state’s top law enforcement agency. The judge called Kane a political “neophyte” who failed to make the transition from campaigner to public servant after she took office.
“This case is about ego — the ego of a politician consumed with her image from Day One,” Demchick-Alloy said. “This case is about retaliation and revenge against perceived enemies who this defendant … felt had embarrassed her in the press.”
Kane was the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state’s top prosecutor. She had been a stay-at-home mother and former assistant county prosecutor before using her husband’s trucking fortune to run for statewide office in 2012. She quickly became a rising star in the state Democratic Party before her office devolved into turmoil as career prosecutors came and went.
Kane and her husband are now estranged and share custody of their teenage boys.
“Your children are the ultimate … collateral damages. They are casualties of your actions,” the judge said. “But you did that, not this court. ”
Earlier during Monday’s hearing, Kane’s 15-year-old son pleaded for leniency while her former deputies described an office demoralized by her leadership and terrorized by “Nixonian espionage.”
Chris Kane called his mother “his rock” and said that “it would be tough for all of us” if she went to jail.
Kane, 50, had argued that the loss of her career, law license and reputation was punishment enough. She had asked the judge to sentence her to probation or house arrest so she could be home to raise her sons.
“I really don’t care what happens to me,” Kane said before leaning toward the defense table to grab tissues.
“There is no more torture in the world than to watch your children suffer and know you had something to do with it,” she said. “I have been punished.”
The one-term attorney general said her younger son, 14-year-old Zachary, did not attend Monday’s sentencing because “he couldn’t even bear it.”
Prosecutors called her crimes “egregious” and pushed for jail time. They said a paranoid Kane ruined morale in the 800-person office and the wider law enforcement community through a calculated scheme to embarrass rival prosecutors who had left the office.
Kane “repeatedly misused her official authority to advance her personal vendettas,” Dist. Atty. Kevin Steele wrote in a sentencing memo last week.
In the final year of her first term, she was convicted Aug. 15 of two felony counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor charges. She did not testify at her trial, and she resigned the next day.
Also Monday, former deputies in the office, giving emotional testimony while looking toward their ex-boss, described an office demoralized by Kane, especially after the investigation of the leak became public.
Former deputy Clarke Madden said the scandal permeated every corner of the office, as victims, witnesses and other law enforcement agencies feared working with the agency. The office itself was in constant turmoil, Madden said.
“Through a pattern of systemic firings and Nixonian espionage, she created a terror zone in this office,” said Erik Olsen, a career prosecutor who is now the chief deputy attorney general.
Kane enjoyed mostly good press early on as she supported gay marriage, ramped up a anti-child-predator unit run by her twin sister and questioned her predecessor’s handling of the Penn State sex assault case.
But turmoil inside the office became apparent as top deputies and career prosecutors headed for the doors. Kane’s feud with one of them, Frank Fina, who had helped run the Penn State probe and other sensitive investigations, led to the leak.
Kane, taking aim at him, had a campaign consultant pass confidential files to a reporter about a corruption case Fina had declined to charge before he left the office. She then tried to frame someone else for the leak, aides testified at the perjury and obstruction trial.
Aside from the conviction, Kane’s political career will be remembered for her investigation of pornography that she said was being traded on state computers by judges, lawyers and other public employees. Two state Supreme Court justices resigned amid the fallout.