Judge OKs house arrest study for Kane
NORRISTOWN >> A Montgomery County judge has approved a house arrest suitability study for former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane who faces sentencing next week for perjury and abuse of power convictions.
Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy, at the request of Kane’s lawyers, on Monday approved Kane’s request for the house arrest assessment and ordered county probation officials to complete that study and submit it to her no later than Oct. 21. Kane faces a sentencing hearing Oct. 24.
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 by Demchick-Alloy.
State sentencing guidelines could allow for less jail time for Kane, who has no criminal record.
In court papers, defense lawyer Marc R. 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 for Kane.
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.”
Steinberg claimed Kane is a non-violent 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.
However, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele argued house arrest would be “inappropriate” for Kane and had asked the judge not to approve the house arrest suitability study.
Steele argued 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 and that Kane has no such condition.
Steele also argued that during a presentence interview by court officials Kane reported she shares fifty-fifty custody of her children with her former husband and that because there is another parent with equal custody of the children, the child caregiver factor should not weigh in favor of house arrest.
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.
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 one 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.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks with members of the media after her arrangement before a district judge, Oct. 1, 2015, in Collegeville. A Montgomery County judge recently approved a house arrest suitability study for Kane.