Ex-TV anchor gets house arrest

November 24, 2008 4:45:58 PM PST
A former TV newsman in Philadelphia who said he felt threatened by his co-anchor's "rising star" was sentenced Monday to six months of house arrest after hacking into her e-mail and leaking gossip that contributed to her downfall. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Larry Mendte, 51, admitted hacking into KYW-TV co-anchor Alycia Lane's e-mail hundreds of times, both before and after the city's CBS affiliate fired her in January.

"I made my job too important," Mendte said in court Monday. "In believing that I was protecting the well-being of my children and my family, I put them both in jeopardy."

He then apologized to Lane, who attended the sentencing. Lane had given a confidential victim-impact statement to the court but declined to comment after the hearing.

Mendte escaped jail time but has suffered the loss of his career and reputation, U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin noted. He must serve six months of home confinement during three years of probation and must perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.

He had faced up to six months in prison under sentencing guidelines.

The former "Access Hollywood" anchor described his early relationship with Lane as "flirtatious, unprofessional and improper" but said it soured after his wife, local Fox anchor Dawn Stensland, learned about it. The twice-divorced Lane, 36, vehemently denies any impropriety and has sued him for invasion of privacy and on other grounds.

The pair anchored the evening newscasts on KYW from 2004 to January, when Lane was fired after a Dec. 16 arrest in New York following a late-night scuffle with police. The charges were later dropped as part of a pretrial diversion program. She has a wrongful-termination suit pending against KYW.

Mendte leaked privileged e-mails about her criminal case to the press, and prosecutors say he is the only plausible source of damaging leaks concerning a swimsuit photo she sent a friend, married TV sports anchor Rich Eisen.

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 illegally accessing a protected computer.

"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 two months after she was fired.

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