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July 17, 2009

Comparing white-collar apples and drug dealing oranges at sentencing

This local article, headlined "Lawyers question Fumo's sentence: The former state senator appears to have gotten off easy for misusing $2.4 million in taxpayers' money, defense attorneys and prosecutors say," highlights the challenges of making sentencing comparison between different types of crimes involving different types of offenders.  Here are excerpts:

Former state Sen. Vincent Fumo should consider himself lucky that he was convicted of misusing more than $2.4 million in taxpayers' money and not of selling crack cocaine. He'd likely have gotten far more than the 4.5-year federal prison term he received Tuesday had he been caught selling crack. With credit for good behavior, Fumo, 66, a multimillionaire political power broker from Philadelphia, could walk out of prison in 2013.

Joseph J. Moore, 23, faces a longer haul. He lacks Fumo's cash and political clout and won't finish his 20-year federal prison term on a drug conviction until 2029. Moore was in a car with three men who tried to buy $6,000 worth of crack cocaine from a police informant....

"How do you reconcile [someone] who possesses or sells crack cocaine and receives a sentence of 20 years in a federal penitentiary with the sentence that Fumo received?" asked Harrisburg lawyer Brian Perry, who represents drug defendants in federal court. "How is that justice when a senator convicted of 137 felony counts receives a sentence below the guidelines range?" he asked. "It sends a message that the system isn't fair and that everyone is not treated equally and, unfortunately, many people feel that way."...

Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed said that although he doesn't know all the considerations behind Fumo's sentence, "it seems light to me."...  Still, comparing county prosecutions to Fumo's case is difficult because federal sentencing guidelines are so different, he said....

Perry said Fumo's case stands out more because he didn't admit his guilt. "When these people I represent every day are getting 12, 15, 20 years, this guy goes through a trial, does not accept responsibility, gets convicted and gets a sentence below the guideline range, I think the harm it does is that it emphasizes that the system does not treat everyone the same," Perry said....

Dauphin County Public Defender Kenneth A. Rapp cited the same unbalanced scenario and called the "favorable sentence" Fumo received a "great cause for concern." "It is a glaring example of the disparate treatment for an individual who clearly has all the tools and resources at his disposal versus a less-privileged person who doesn't enjoy those same benefits and who commits far less serious acts, yet pays a much steeper price," Rapp said.

July 17, 2009 at 07:35 AM | Permalink

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Comments

THERE IS A BIG PROBLEM HERE. I CAN SEE OFFERING TO SELL TO AN INFORMANT BUT BUYING FROM AN INFORMANT.I GUESS THERE ARE NO REAL KINGPINS AS THESE LAWS WERE ENACTED TO CONVICT DRUG LORDS ECT.
POLICE ARE FULLY AWARE OF WHAT QUANITY IT TAKES TO TRIGGER THESE MANDATORY MINIMUMS AND THIS IS CLEARLY UNJUST TO ANYONE.SO NOW THERE OFFERING TO PUT DRUGS IN THE STREETS.DRUGS ARE NOT LIKE CHILD MOLESTATION CASES AND I DONT THINK THE POLICE SHOULD OFFER TO SELL ANYTHING.MOST OF THE TIME THERE ISNT EVEN ANY DRUGS. I THINK CRACK SHOULD BE ANALYZED FOR COMPOSITION AND YOU WILL BE SHOCK AT THE ACTUAL AMOUNT OF COCAINE THAT IS THERE.

Posted by: TONI DAVIS | Jul 19, 2009 8:23:41 AM

It is important to differentiate between property and violent crimes. If drugs lead to violent crimes, then there has to be some consideration.

Posted by: Concerned Texan | Jul 21, 2009 3:12:49 PM

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