Ex-Attorney General Kathleen Kane sentencing
Former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaving the courthouse in Norristown. Credit: Pool photo: Dan Gleiter, Penn Live

NORRISTOWN — Pennsylvania’s disgraced ex-attorney general Kathleen Kane was sentenced today to spend at least 10 months behind bars for leaking confidential information and then perjuring herself to cover it up. 

“The case is about ego — ego of a politician consumed with her image from day one,” Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy said. “And instead of focusing solely on the business of fighting crime, her focus was battling these perceived enemies, orchestrating a calculated retaliatory strategy and utilizing and exploiting her position to do it.”

Kane was sentenced to spend up to 22 months in the Montgomery County Correctional facility and, after that, spend eight years on probation. In Pennsylvania, defendants can post bail when sentenced to less than two years in jail, pending appeal. Kane’s bail was set at $75,000 in cash, and her request for additional time to raise bail was denied. Prior to being sentenced, Kane tearfully spoke about how the last three days — waiting to possibly go to prison — have been the worst of her life and was “like watching the funeral of your own family.”

“I don’t care what happens to me,” Kane told the court, asking the judge to have “mercy” on her sons. “Since this conviction, I feel like we have been in this downward spiral and things are not going well with them…There is no more torture in the world than watching your children suffer and thinking you had something to do with it.”

Demchick-Alloy told Kane before handing down her sentence that the children were “the ultimate and tragic collateral damage” and called them “casualties of your actions.”

“When you put your hand on the Bible,” the judge told her, “you weren’t thinking of them. You were thinking of yourself.”

When Kane spoke to the court, she also apologized to Pennsylvania taxpayers feeling disappointment and distrust in state law enforcement. And she admitted that for the first time, she was on the other side of the law and maybe hadn’t before considered what it’s really like to stare down a possible prison sentence.

“Maybe as a prosecutor,” she said, “I never thought enough about how someone else feels.”

Prosecutors brought forth several witnesses, including Clarke Madden, a former deputy attorney general who described the feeling in the Office of the Attorney General under Kane as “like dancing on a trap door.”

Erik Olsen, the current chief deputy attorney general, testified that he was thrilled when Kane was elected and hoped she could root out what he believed had become a misogynistic culture in the Office of the Attorney General. Now, he described an office in ruin. He said Kane’s employees worked under stressful conditions and the constant fear not only that they were being watched, but that they’d be fired if they failed to express unconditional loyalty to Kane.

“This has been the worst three years of my professional career,” he said, adding that she used “systemic firings” and “espionage” to create “a terror zone in this office.”

In addition to about 30 letters of support submitted on behalf of Kane, four people testified as character witnesses in her defense, including former colleagues, a priest who quoted Jesus and Kane’s 15-year-old son, Christopher who testified that “My mom is like my rock.” Other witnesses detailed her work as a prosecutor and as attorney general.

The sentencing hearing comes about two months after Kane was convicted on charges of perjury, obstruction, abuse of office and other charges for using her power as Pennsylvania attorney general to leak secret grand jury information in order to exact political revenge.

It also came about four years after Kane became the first woman and the first Democrat to lead the Office of the Attorney General in Pennsylvania. Connected to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kane was once seen as a promising politician who could one day become governor — even president.

In August, a Montgomery County jury took less than five hours to render a verdict in the case after the weeklong trial in which her defense offered no witness testimony. Prosecutors offered witnesses, text message records, call records and other evidence to detail a months-long feud Kane had with a former employee of the attorney general’s office.

Since her conviction, Kane has remained free on bail, but Demchick-Alloy required Kane surrender her passport and made it a condition of her bail that she could not retaliate against anyone involved in the case against her. Kane resigned from office a day after being convicted.

Trial testimony showed that Kane colluded with two former aides to leak secret grand jury material to the Philadelphia Daily News to embarrass Frank Fina, an attorney who worked under former attorney general (turned governor) Tom Corbett.

The saga began in early 2014 when a story ran on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer detailing a thwarted sting operation of Democrats accepting bribes that Kane, as attorney general, failed to pursue. Kane was convinced that Fina had leaked the unflattering story because she ran on a platform of probing the years-long investigation into Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, which was led by Fina.

So, witnesses testified, she worked with two close confidants to gather what was secret grand jury information about an investigation that Fina and his close allies had dropped back in 2009. That investigation looked into the financial dealings of J. Whyatt Mondesire, a former Philadelphia NAACP leader.

In June 2014, Daily News reporter Chris Brennan published a story detailing the grand jury investigation into Mondesire and reported it had been dropped. People who worked in the Office of the Attorney General at the time said they knew immediately that grand jury information had been leaked — an illegal move for prosecutors.

During the trial, prosecutors presented their “smoking gun” witness: Josh Morrow, who was Kane’s former political consultant who was granted immunity by prosecutors in exchange for testifying against Kane.

He told the jury that Kane called him in spring 2014 telling him that one of her aides had some documents to leak to a reporter. Weeks after picking up the paperwork, he gave it to Brennan. But the night before he picked up the envelope of grand jury information, Morrow called a friend who was also in Pennsylvania politics — a friend whose phone was unknowingly being tapped by the FBI in another, completely unrelated investigation.

“So Kathleen called me today… and was like Adrian [King] has documents for you to leak out,” Morrow said over the phone, continuing: “and all this bullshit about Frank Fina shutting down a Jerry Mondesire investigation.”

Kane and Morrow also exchanged text messages during that time where Kane continuously checked in on the status of the leak, at one point asking him: “Where’s my story?”

The bulk of Kane’s sentence comes from a conviction on charges of perjury. Prosecutors said she lied repeatedly while under oath and testifying before a grand jury.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.