Kathleen Kane seeks house arrest for perjury conviction

Former Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane at her preliminary hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown Nov. 10, 2015.

NORRISTOWN >> Just days before she learns her fate for orchestrating the illegal disclosure of secret grand jury information to the media and engaging in acts designed to cover up her conduct, former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane has requested a house arrest suitability study.

“Defendant respectfully submits that, as a non-violent offender with no prior record and a low risk of recidivism and who is the primary caregiver for two minor children, she is an appropriate candidate for house arrest,” defense lawyer Marc Robert Steinberg wrote in papers filed in Montgomery County Court on Thursday.

The filing offers the first hint of what Kane and her lawyers will argue at her Oct. 24 sentencing hearing before Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy.

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. 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.

“Thus the guidelines contemplate a sentence of probation for this offense,” said Steinberg, maintaining house arrest represents a sentence that is “more restrictive than probation.” “Accordingly, defendant respectfully submits that a house arrest suitability assessment is appropriate in this case.”

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.

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.”

District Attorney Kevin R. Steele likely will have a chance to weigh-in on the issue before the sentencing hearing. The judge had earmarked Oct. 17 as the final day for lawyers to file any presentence memorandums.

Kane was convicted of the charges by a jury after a trial in August. 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 co-prosecutor 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.

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