NORRISTOWN, PA (WHYY) – A judge has rejected former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s eleventh-hour bid to stay out of jail, clearing the path for Kane to start serving her time as an inmate under county supervision.
Kane’s jail sentence, set to begin Thursday morning at 9, comes more than two years after a jury convicted her of perjury and other charges.
Kane, who was recently divorced and is now helping to raise two teenage boys, sought more time to get her family affairs in order, but a judge denied the motion without explanation.
Earlier this week, the state Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal. Then prosecutors successfully moved to revoke her bail, which she was granted as she pursued her appeal.
Kane, 52, has been free on bail since a judge sentenced her in October 2016 to 10 to 23 months in jail for leaking confidential grand jury information to the media to retaliate against a political rival. When questioned about the leak under oath, Kane lied about it.
In the two years since, Kane seemed confident of success in her attempt to overturn the conviction.
“She’s a human being, and as a human being, she tends to be optimistic. She was optimistic at her chances on appeal,” said Kane’s defense lawyer, Bill Brennan. He said the latest request to stay the sentence was intended to help her sort out her family life.
“It was really a motion in the nature of a compassionate plea,” Brennan said.
A rising star falls
Kane was once considered a rising star in the state’s Democratic Party. She was the first woman to hold Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement job. And before she was beset with scandal, political observers even mentioned Kane, who grew up in a working-class Scranton family, as a possible contender for president.
“Kane might have stayed on that path, even thrived, strengthening relationships in the state’s old-school, ossified circles of power,” wrote Philadelphia journalist David Gambacorta, who profiled Kane in a magazine article for Esquire. “But these emails changed everything.”
Those would be the now-infamous emails that sparked the statewide political upheaval known as “Porngate.” A special investigator Kane appointed to dig into her predecessor’s work on the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case discovered the bombshell emails.
The investigation was an unpopular move among state prosecutors, since Sandusky, the disgraced former Penn State assistant coach, had already started his life sentence for molesting children. Nonetheless, Kane thought former Gov. Tom Corbett slowed that investigation for political purposes. In particular, Sandusky’s charity provided campaign donations to Corbett, and Kane believed that tainted the prosecution of Sandusky. The official report from the special prosecutor found no evidence for that, but the internal probe did unearth the trove of scandalous emails.
Some of the messages were shocking and graphic. They contained pornographic, racist, and homophobic content. The emails were swapped between state employees and elite members of the state’s judiciary, tarnishing the reputations of many and spurring two Supreme Court justices to step down.
Kane’s legal troubles began with a hunch that former state prosecutor Frank Fina, no fan of Kane for her digging into the Sandusky case, was the source of a story that portrayed her in an unflattering light. The piece, published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that Kane had quietly ended an investigation into a member of her own Democratic Party who allegedly accepted gifts from an undercover agent.
In retaliation, Kane leaked secret grand jury information that Kane thought showed Fina did not do enough to prosecute the former leader of Philadelphia’s NAACP on corruption charges. She later denied being a part of the leak to the press.
In August 2016, a jury convicted Kane of all nine charges, including perjury and obstructing the administration of law. Two days later, she resigned from office.
Kane, who is from the Scranton area, recently divorced her husband, Christopher, whose family owns a multimillion-dollar trucking company. That revenue helped launch Kane’s run for attorney general.
Since she was criminally charged, Kane has stayed out of the spotlight. When she ran to be the state’s highest law enforcement official, she planned to shake up the “old boys club” that she said permeated Harrisburg.
And she has maintained that the criminal case against her was motivated by the same closeknit network of politically connected men.
Under the court order, Kane has until 9 a.m. Thursday to surrender to authorities. She will be imprisoned in an 8- by 12-foot cell at the Montgomery County jail in Eagleville, where she will be placed in protective custody for the few several days, according to county spokesman John Corcoran.
From there, Kane will move into the general inmate population, and she will likely have cellmates. Corcoran said Kane can request a longer period of protective custody.
Kane will be permitted visitors twice a week for up to two hours at a time.
But Corcoran said in-person contact is not permitted, a facility policy intended to prevent drug transfers to inmates.
Visitors, including Kane’s two sons, will be able to talk with the former attorney general through a glass-encased wall.
“It’s the same with any other inmate,” Corcoran said.