PHILADELPHIA – An evening news anchor is under federal investigation and off the air after his fired co-anchor complained that someone may have hacked into her e-mails and leaked them to gossip columnists.
The investigation became public after the FBI last Thursday raided the home of anchor Larry Mendte of KYW-TV, seizing a computer and related equipment.
The raid was the second major embarrassment in months for the CBS affiliate. In January, the station fired Mendte's co-anchor, Alycia Lane, following a series of off-camera incidents, including her arrest during a scuffle with New York City police.
Lane says she began to suspect this year that her private e-mails were being accessed and forwarded to news outlets that have covered her career and social life.
The FBI took the case, and the investigation eventually led to Mendte, 51. The station had hired Mendte, the one-time co-host of "Access Hollywood," and the striking Lane, dubbed "the Latina bombshell," in July 2003 to boost its sagging ratings.
The pairing worked — at least on-screen. By November, just before Lane's arrest, the glossy KYW newscast was moving closer to longtime market leader WPVI.
But tension was rising behind the scenes, Lane's lawyer suggests.
"There had been some jealousy by him over her popularity and ratings. There was no question that she was rising faster than he was," attorney Paul Rosen told The Associated Press.
With a salary of $700,000, she also earned somewhat more than him, he said.
Mendte's attorney, Michael Schwartz, declined comment on the alleged jealousy motive.
He said that Mendte is cooperating with authorities and hopes for a quick resolution to both the investigation and his employment status.
"I am hopeful that he will resume his career in broadcasting," Schwartz said.
The station's Web site describes Mendte as a "target" of the FBI investigation, although Schwartz said Mendte had not received a letter stating he is a target. Federal prosecutors declined comment.
The e-mail interceptions allegedly took place while Lane was defending herself on the criminal charges in the New York police case and preparing to sue the station for wrongful termination, Rosen said.
"There were incidents in which she was embarrassed by information that was made public that only a very, very discrete number of people would know about," Rosen said.
Lane had more than three years remaining on her contract when she was fired, Rosen said.
In February, New York prosecutors downgraded felony charges that she struck an officer, and a judge pledged to drop the remaining charges in August if she is not arrested again.
Lane was criticized previously over news reports that she e-mailed bikini shots of herself to NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen.