NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, once a rising star in state politics, left a courtroom in handcuffs on Monday to start serving a 10- to 23-month sentence for a retaliation scheme a judge attributed to her all-consuming ego.
Kane, 50, also was sentenced to eight years of probation by a Montgomery County judge, who said Kane’s need for revenge led her to break the law and then lie to a grand jury. Kane, who was accused of leaking secret investigative files to embarrass a rival prosecutor, was convicted of perjury and obstruction.
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 politician to public servant when she took office in 2013.
Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state’s top prosecutor, will remain in custody unless she posts $75,000 cash bail, higher than she had previously posted. She could then remain free while her legal team appeals her conviction.
“I really don’t care what happens to me,” Kane told the judge. “There is no more torture in the world than to watch your children suffer and know you had something to do with it.”
Kane had been a stay-at-home mother in the Scranton area and a former assistant prosecutor in Lackawanna County before using $2 million of her husband’s trucking fortune to run for statewide office in 2012.
The judge told her: “Your children are the ultimate … collateral damages. They are casualties of your actions. But you did that, not this court.”
Kane didn’t testify at her trial. She was convicted in August of two felony counts of perjury and seven misdemeanor charges, and she resigned the next day.
Earlier Monday, Kane’s 15-year-old son, Chris Kane, pleaded for leniency while her former deputies described an office demoralized by her leadership and terrorized by “Nixonian espionage.”
Kane 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. She and her husband are now estranged and share custody of the teenage boys.
The one-term attorney general said her younger son, 14-year-old Zachary Kane, did not attend Monday’s sentencing because “he couldn’t even bear it.”
Prosecutors called her crimes “egregious” and pushed for jail time after the defense sought probation or house arrest. They said a paranoid Kane ruined morale in the 800-person office and the wider law enforcement community, burning bridges among state, local and federal agencies.
“Through a pattern of systemic firings and Nixonian espionage, she created a terror zone in this office,” said Erik Olsen, a career prosecutor who’s now the chief deputy attorney general.
Kane enjoyed mostly good press early on as she supported gay marriage, ramped up a child predator unit run by her twin sister and questioned her predecessor’s handling of the Penn State child sex assault case. Kane’s feud with one of the prosecutors, Frank Fina, who had helped run the Penn State probe and other sensitive investigations, led to the leak.
Kane, taking aim at Fina, had a campaign consultant pass confidential files to a reporter about a corruption case he had declined to charge before he left the office, authorities said. She then tried to frame someone else for the leak, aides testified.
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.
District Attorney Kevin Steele, also a Democrat, said the jail term was a long time coming.
“She said, ‘This was war,’ and truth became a casualty,” he said, quoting from a Kane email about her rivals.