Montco DA opposes house arrest for Kane
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said house arrest would be “inappropriate” for Kathleen Kane.
NORRISTOWN >> Montgomery County prosecutors want a judge to deny former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s request for a house arrest suitability study as she awaits sentencing for perjury and abuse of power convictions.
“In Montgomery County, house arrest is a seldom used sentencing alternative generally reserved for defendants who suffer from serious, debilitating medical conditions or who care for a person with this type of condition. As far as we are aware, Ms. Kane has no such condition, and consequently, an exception should not be made for her,” District Attorney Kevin R. Steele wrote in court documents filed Friday.
Steele argued house arrest “would be an inappropriate disposition” for a defendant facing punishment “for multiple jury
convictions regarding her abuse of power as well as two counts felony perjury.”
On Thursday, Kane, through her lawyer Marc Robert Steinberg, sought a house-arrest study, claiming that she is a nonviolent offender with no prior record and a low risk of recidivism and the primary caregiver for two minor children and therefore is an appropriate candidate for house arrest.
But Steele argued that during a presentence interview by court officials Kane reported she shares fifty-fifty custody of her children with Mr. Kane.
“The commonwealth submits that, because there is another parent with equal custody of the children, this factor should not weigh in favor of house arrest,” Steele wrote.
Kane, 50, a first-term Democrat and the first woman ever to be elected to the state post, faces a possible maximum sentence of 14 to 28 years in state prison on felony charges of perjury and misdemeanor charges of obstructing administration of law, official oppression, false swearing and conspiracy when she’s sentenced Oct. 24 by Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy.
State sentencing guidelines could allow for less jail time for Kane, who has no criminal record.
Steinberg, referring to state sentencing guidelines, said the felony perjury charge calls for a sentence ranging from probation to nine months and suggested house arrest would be an appropriate punishment.
While Steele did not reveal the precise sentence he will seek for Kane, he said house arrest, under the county’s Intermediate Punishment Act, is a sentencing alternative available only to a defendant who would have otherwise received a county jail sentence. Steele added, “A defendant who is sentenced to a state prison sentence is not eligible for house arrest.”
Quoting county probation statistics, Steele said currently there are only 60 convicted defendants in the county under house arrest supervision, and of those, 42 were convicted of driving under the influence. Thus, Steele said, there are only about 18 non-DUI offenders currently under house arrest in the county.
“Clearly, based upon the small percentage of nonDUI criminal cases ending with a sentence of house arrest in Montgomery County, this is a rare exception and not the rule,” Steele wrote.
Steinberg, a local lawyer who was hired to represent Kane only for the sentencing phase of her case, argued state law allows for house arrest as an alternative, appropriate form of punishment for nonviolent offenders. He said the sentencing option is available “to make the offender more accountable to the community and to help reduce the county jail overcrowding problem while maintaining public safety.”
If Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor who was elected attorney general in 2012 and was considered a rising star among Democrats, is ultimately given a house arrest sentence, her case could be transferred to Lackawanna County, Steinberg suggested. Steinberg claimed Lackawanna County Community Corrections officials are willing to supervise Kane on house arrest.
It’s unclear when Demchick-Alloy will rule on the matter.
Kane was convicted by a jury in August of charges she orchestrated the illegal disclosure of secret grand jury information to the media and engaged in acts designed to cover up her conduct. Kane resigned her post two days later and has remained free on own recognizance bail while awaiting sentencing.
Kane’s trial lawyer Gerald L. Shargel hinted at an appeal, saying Kane’s defense team would “fight to the end.”
Kane did not testify at trial.
At trial, Steele and coprosecutor Michelle Henry alleged Kane orchestrated the illegal release of secret materials pertaining to the 2009 statewide grand jury No. 29 to a reporter in order to exact “revenge” on a former state prosecutor with whom she was feuding.
Kane also was convicted of lying to the 35th statewide grand jury in November 2014 to cover up her leaks by lying under oath when she claimed she never agreed to maintain her secrecy regarding the 2009 grand jury investigation.
Prosecutors said they discovered evidence that Kane signed a so-called “secrecy oath” on her second day in office on Jan. 17, 2013, promising her secrecy for statewide investigating grand juries 1 through 32. The oath compelled Kane to maintain the secrecy of all matters occurring before past and present statewide grand juries, prosecutors alleged.
Kane claimed she did nothing wrong and has implied the charges were part of an effort to force her out of office because she discovered pornographic emails being exchanged between state employees on state email addresses.
However, a judge ruled Kane could not raise the pornographic email defense at trial. Defense lawyers hinted that might be the basis for an eventual appeal.
Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, center, at her preliminary hearing at the Montgomery County Court House in Norristown Nov. 10, 2015.