By David DeKok
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was sentenced on Monday to serve 10 to 23 months in county jail for leaking confidential grand jury information and then lying about it to investigators.
Kane, 50, the first woman and first Democrat ever elected Pennsylvania attorney general, was convicted in August on charges of perjury, false swearing, obstruction of justice, official oppression and conspiracy. She resigned two days after the jury in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas handed down its verdict.
In addition, Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy sentenced Kane to eight years of probation.
“A lesser sentence will depreciate the seriousness of the crimes of this defendant,” she said.
Kane, who intends to appeal her conviction, had faced a maximum sentence of 24 years in state prison.
Her lawyer, Marc Steinberg, was not available to comment after the hearing.
Kane was accused of giving information from a grand jury proceeding in 2013 to a Philadelphia Daily News reporter to retaliate against a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina. She believed he had told the Philadelphia Inquirer about her decision to drop prosecution of a case Fina had developed against six black Democratic legislators in Philadelphia.
Grand juries play an important role in the U.S. criminal justice system by deciding if a prosecutor has enough evidence to bring charges against a suspect. Secret deliberations encourage witnesses to speak without fear of retaliation and to protect the reputation of suspects when the jury decides against recommending charges.
Witnesses for the prosecution said the Kane investigation had brought havoc to the attorney general's office.
"Today is another sad day for the Commonwealth and its citizens," Bruce Beemer, who replaced Kane, said in a statement after the sentencing.
"The Office of Attorney General is moving forward with steps to restore the public's confidence in the work that we do and the way that we do it," he said without specifying his office's plans.
Kane is the second Pennsylvania attorney general in the past quarter-century to be convicted of crimes committed in office. In 1995, Attorney General Ernie Preate pleaded guilty to mail fraud and served a prison sentence.
More than 25 friends and members of Kane's family attended the hearing to show support. Several, including Kane’s son Christopher, 15, testified as character witnesses on her behalf.
Frank DeAndrea, a former police chief of Hazleton, told the judge that sending Kane to prison could amount to a death sentence if drug lords she helped convict retaliate.
Demchick-Alloy said Kane had assumed that risk when she decided to commit crimes.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)