Detroit priest sentenced in charity theft

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Metro Detroit Catholic priest was sentenced Monday to 12 months in jail — to be served over five years — for stealing money from a charity for the poor.

The Rev. Timothy Kane was convicted in October on embezzlement, conspiracy and other related charges for stealing about $131,000 from a charity fund through a scam using "straw" applicants to request $1,500 grants for the needy and then receiving kickbacks on some of the money paid out.

Kane's jail sentence is to be served over a five-year period in June and December each year, with two extra months to be determined. Kane also must pay $131,400 in restitution and will be on probation for five years. He was ordered to report to the court Tuesday to begin serving time in the Wayne County Jail.

The 58-year-old priest has denied the charges and said he wrongly signed a confession to police. He again proclaimed his innocence before being sentenced by Wayne County Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow.

"My finances are an open book," Kane said. "I've never been enriched by any scam ... and in fact, I am in debt."

Kane said Monday he was "pulled into something without knowing what was going on."

He assumed responsibility for "lack of due diligence."

The prosecution called for sentencing at the top of the guidelines: Five to 20 years in prison.

Kane's attorney, Steven Scharg, argued for no jail time.

"It's fair to assume you will never see Mr. Kane back in this position again," Scharg said. "He is not a danger to the community. It would not benefit anyone or any society to incarcerate this man."

At least half a dozen people spoke in court on Kane's behalf, including one man who asked the judge to "rule with a velvet glove" instead of "with an iron fist."

Morrow said the sentencing guidelines didn't take into account Kane's age and the fact he had no prior record.

"Somebody has to serve the disenfranchised," Morrow said. "There aren't enough people to do that. But you do it willingly. You do it joyfully."

Moments before handing down his sentence, the judge said he hoped Kane was able to redeem himself in the future.

"I hope that what you find in this is an opportunity to sharpen who you believe that you are," Morrow said. "To reaffirm your commitment to whatever you've committed your life to be about."

Kane's attorney said after sentencing that he thought the judge was fair.

"It was a just sentence," Scharg said. "The judge really took his time and evaluated the whole situation."

The judge acknowledged Kane's work in the community when he set the unique sentence, Scharg said.

"That was the judge's decision and I think he based it on the letters of support for Mr. Kane," he said. "I think he realized that maybe punishment wasn't exactly necessarily in this matter, due to … all the positive things (Kane has) done in the community."

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said Monday the office was considering an appeal.

"This is a most unusual sentence that is below the defendant's guidelines," she said in a statement.

"It is especially troubling considering that he was convicted as charged of multiple counts of stealing money from the poor. We will be determining whether we will appeal the case in the next several days."

Kane declined to comment following the sentencing.

During his trial, Kane testified he didn't steal money from the Angel Fund, an Archdiocese of Detroit charity fund created to assist people in need. He was offered a plea deal before the trial but declined.

Sentencing was originally scheduled for last week in Wayne County Circuit Court but was moved to Monday because of a large volume of cases taking place Friday, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

A woman who authorities say conspired with Kane was sentenced in October to five years of probation and a $5,000 fine. Dorecca Brewer pleaded no contest to charges, including embezzlement and conspiracy.

Morrow said Monday that Kane's sentence should be similar to Brewer's.

About 131 Angel Fund grants are suspected to have been fraudulently obtained in the scheme from August 2008 to July 2012.

According to authorities, an applicant usually received $300 and Brewer, a 34-year-old Jackson resident, also received part of the remaining grant.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Colleta told jurors in October that Brewer told the "straw" applicants that Kane would also receive a cut of the money along with a Michigan prison inmate with whom Kane was having a relationship.

The Angel Fund is supported by an anonymous donor family and operated by the Archdiocese of Detroit. Since 2005, it has provided more than $17 million in grants to needy individuals and families in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park, according to the archdiocese.

Joe Kohn a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said Kane will remain on suspension pending the outcome of a church review. Kane originally was placed on paid suspension in February.

"There's not only the civil process, but there's a canonical process," he said. "We have our own court and our own proceedings and that is ongoing. He still has to be reviewed in regards to Church law."

Kohn said Kane is paid a salary in the low $30,000 range that is meant to cover room and board. Due to the unique sentence, Kohn said archdiocese officials must determine whether Kane will continue to receive pay during his months in jail.

"I'm still looking for the answers for that," he said. "He remains on suspension and is not allowed to practice or present himself as a priest."

Ordained in 1982, Kane is the former associate pastor of St. Moses the Black Parish in Detroit, formerly Church of the Madonna and St. Gregory the Great parishes. He also previously served at parishes in Wyandotte and Clawson, according to the archdiocese.

Staff Writer Oralandar Brand-Williams contributed.