Anchors away as TV newsreaders' career spat ends in court
A POPULAR former TV news presenter in the United States who obsessively hacked into the e-mail of a younger rival dubbed "anchorbabe" and leaked gossip about her to the press has escaped jail.
Larry Mendte, 51, admitted hacking into 36-year-old Alycia Lane's e-mail hundreds of times, both before and after the Philadelphia TV station where she worked, sacked her in January.
Judge Mary McLaughlin, at the US district court in Philadelphia yesterday, sentenced Mendte, who also presented Access Hollywood, to three years probation, which includes six months of home confinement and 250 hours of community service. He was also fined $5,000 (3,339).
"I made my job too important," Mendte, who pleaded guilty in August, told the court.
"In believing that I was protecting the wellbeing of my children and my family, I put them both in jeopardy."
He also apologised to Emmy award-winning Miss Lane, who was in court for the sentencing.
During the case, Mendte was said to be jealous of Miss Lane's $780,000-a-year (521,000) salary – $81,000 more than he was paid for their evening news bulletin.
Several of her personal e-mails have appeared in the American media in recent years, including a message about a sexy bikini shot of herself she sent to a married former colleague.
The man's wife intercepted the e-mail, her reply was published in the New York gossip columns, and Miss Lane was dubbed "anchorbabe".
Following his plea, Mendte described his early relationship with Miss Lane as "flirtatious, unprofessional and improper", but said that it soured after his wife, Dawn Stensland, learned about it.
The twice-divorced Miss Lane denies any impropriety and has sued him for invasion of privacy.
"My role at the station was still being diminished when Alycia told me during an argument that she (was] the rising star and that I was '50 and on my way out'," Mendte said in August.
Assistant US Attorney Michael Levy, prosecuting, said: "What we are dealing with here is a two-year assault on the privacy of another person."
Paul Rosen, Miss Lane's 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."
Mendte was fired in June. The FBI began investigating him in the spring after agents were called in when a station employee found a computer logged into Ms Lane's private e-mail account nearly two months after she was sacked.
Ms Lane has a wrongful- termination suit pending against KYW, the CBS-affiliate the pair worked for.
She was sacked after being arrested in New York in December following a late-night scuffle with police.
The pair presented the evening news from 2004 to December 2007.
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