A popular TV newsman has been sentenced to three years of probation for obsessively hacking into his co-anchor's e-mail and leaking gossip about her to the press.
A federal judge ruled Monday that 51-year-old Larry Mendte must serve six months of home confinement during his probation. Mendte also must perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.
Mendte had admitted hacking into Alycia Lane's e-mail hundreds of times.
The pair had anchored the evening newscasts on the city's CBS affiliate from 2004 to December 2007, when Lane was fired for various off-camera incidents. Mendte was fired in June after the FBI searched his home and office.
Lane declined comment after the hearing.
Mendte, who is married to a local Fox anchor, admitted the day of his plea that he felt threatened by Lane's "rising star."
He described their early relationship as "flirtatious, unprofessional and improper" — but said it soured after his wife, Dawn Stensland, learned about it. The twice-divorced Lane, vehemently denies any impropriety and has sued him for invasion of privacy and other grounds.
The pair anchored the evening newscasts on Philadelphia's CBS affiliate from 2004 to December 2007, when Lane was fired for various off-camera incidents. Mendte was fired in June, after the FBI searched his home and office.
"My role at the station was still being diminished when Alycia told me during an argument on the set that she [was] the rising star and that I was '50 and on my way out,'" Mendte said after his Aug. 22 plea to a single-count information.
"I felt I was in trouble," he continued. "My career, my future, my family's future was in trouble. And, this is where I got into more trouble — federal trouble."
Mendte has two young children with Stensland and two older children from an earlier marriage. He earned $700,000 at KYW-TV, while Lane's salary had zoomed past his to $780,000, according to her lawyer, Paul Rosen.
The FBI began investigating Mendte in the spring, when a station employee stumbled upon a computer that was logged into Lane's private e-mail account — nearly 2 months after she was fired.
Federal prosecutors have agreed to make no sentencing recommendation, but noted in sentencing documents the damage done to Lane's career and the fact Mendte bought and used a keystroke device to access her e-mail. Mendte is seeking probation, a fine and community service.
Mendte, a former "Access Hollywood" anchor, was active in the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and other charities. Friends who wrote letters of support to U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin call his crime an aberration.
"Larry is deeply remorseful, and clearly humbled and humiliated, by his distressing actions," wrote Marciarose Shestack, another former Philadelphia anchor. "The price he has paid is devastating."
Lane, 36, has a wrongful-termination suit pending against KYW. She was fired after a December arrest in New York following a late-night scuffle with police; the charges were later dropped as part of a pretrial diversion program.
Lane gave a confidential victim-impact statement to the court but does not otherwise plan to comment Monday, her lawyer said.
"The only public life she wanted was her news anchor career. Larry Mendte's criminal conduct destroyed that career and made her a tabloid feeding frenzy," Rosen said in a statement Monday. "We trust the judicial system to dispense justice to Larry Mendte on behalf of his victims."