Ex-NFL star Tommy Kane sentenced 18 years

Tommy Kane, the Montreal native who played wide receiver in the NFL and CFL, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Friday.

In September, Kane pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the stabbing death of his wife, Tammara Shaikh. Kane struck a controversial plea bargain with the Crown that reduced his charge to manslaughter from second-degree murder, sparking outrage and protests in Montreal.

In a 30-minute preface, Superior Court Justice Fraser Martin called the killing of Shaikh "a senseless act" by a "manipulative" and "narcissistic" estranged husband.

"By your act, Mr. Kane, four children are deprived of their mother," the judge told Kane as a dozen of Shaikh's friends and relatives looked on. "The circumstances of the homicide were particularly shocking."

Kane's lawyer, Richard Shadley, said the sentence was harsher than usual and that he would meet Kane to discuss a possible appeal.

Police were called to a west-end house of Kane's mother in Lasalle, Que., in late November 2003, where they found a badly injured Tamara Shaikh. The 35-year-old bank employee died in hospital shortly after.

Several days later, Kane was charged with second-degree murder. Kane and Shaikh, who had four children under the age of eight, had recently separated.

In July, Quebec Court Justice Joseph Tarasofsky ruled that evidence presented at the preliminary hearing was strong enough to warrant a trial before judge and jury.

The court date was originally scheduled for the purposes of setting a date for the trial, but Kane entered his admission of guilt when Quebec Superior Court Justice Fraser Martin asked him if he had a plea to enter.

The stabbing occurred after Shaikh arrived at the house to help transport Kane to a drug-treatment centre.

Hilda St-Louis, a friend of Kane's, testified at the preliminary hearing that the former football star was talking about suicide and that when his wife arrived, the discussion between the spouses quickly deteriorated after he became convinced she wanted a divorce.

The Crown said Kane grabbed her by the hair, dragged her into the kitchen, smashed her head against the floor and stabbed her in the neck.

Kane's mother Shirley testified that Kane repeatedly punched Shaikh in the face.

"Tammy was laying down by the fridge," the 75-year-old woman testified earlier this year.

"Tommy was bending down on his knees on top of her and he was just hitting, punching her."

Two psychiatric reports detailing Kane's bout with depression convinced the Crown to downgrade the original charge of second-degree murder.

According to prosecutor Louis Bouthillier, the case turned when a psychiatrist for the Crown and a defence psychiatrist both concluded Kane suffered from depression prior to the stabbing.

Bouthillier also said that drugs were in Kane's system in the days prior to the stabbing – a factor the psychiatrists took into account in their reports.

Growing up, Kane starred in several sports before deciding to attend the University of Syracuse on a football scholarship. He was part of the unbeaten Orangemen team of 1987 and still holds the school record with a career average of 20.7 yards-per-catch.

Drafted in the third round of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, he caught 142 passes with nine touchdowns for the Seahawks between 1988 and 1992. In 1992 his season ended due to knee and ankle injuries, and Seattle cut him in training camp in 1993.

Kane finished his football career in the CFL, playing five games for the Toronto Argonauts in 1994.

After his professional football career, Kane volunteered his time running football camps for youth at Montreal's Westend Sport Association, the same organization he attended as a young athlete.

He once donated his $70,000 Argonauts salary to the centre.

with files from Canadian Press