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Updated at 3:20 p.m.
NORRISTOWN — Kathleen Kane says the last three days have been among the worst of her life. The thought that she could go to prison today, leaving her two teenage boys, has been “like watching the funeral of your own family.”
The former attorney general of Pennsylvania spoke in front of a Montgomery County courtroom today, tearfully speaking for about 10 minutes about the fear she has for her children having to deal with their mother going to prison. And a few hours later, a judge indeed sentenced Kane to at least 10 months in county jail.
“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.”
Kane will be sentenced following a short recess for lunch. Court is expected to re-convene at about 2:15 p.m. 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.”
“It was one of abject demoralization which settled like a poison cloud over every corner of the office,” he said, adding the “grievous” breach of the public’s trust is “immeasurable.” He said character witnesses for Kane shouldn’t attribute successes under her to her leadership.
“Those successes which the office enjoyed do not belong to the defendant,” he said, “and were accomplished in spite of her and not because of her.”
Erik Olsen, the current chief deputy attorney general, said 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.
He also said her transgressions translated to how attorneys in the Office of the Attorney General interacted with judges, defendants and other law enforcement. He said attorneys he led were routinely subjected to questions about working under an accused a felon and dealt with agencies like the FBI saying “we can’t work with you.”
“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. Former Hazleton police chief Frank DeAndrea told the judge Kane targeted drug cartels while in office and said that alone could be a reason to spare her from spending time behind bars.
“She would then be a target by all these prison gangs,” he said. “And it would be a death sentence.”
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.
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 Montgomery County Judge Wendy 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.
During the sentencing, prosecutors played a short clip from CBS3 showing Kane on her final day of work as attorney general. In it, she told reporters: “I don’t have any regrets.”
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.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Kane started a “war,” adding that “wars have casualties. Wars leave scars.” Meanwhile, her defense attorneys attempted to pin the leak on the two former aides who testified against her.