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August 22, 2009

"Fumo disclosure on addictions could pay off"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article discussing the possibility that a prominent  defendant, who received a federal sentence already considered lenient, may be able to get another reduction based on a (little-discussed, but very significant) substance-abuse treatment program for federal prisoners.  Here are the basics:

Former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo's effort to delay his prison term by citing addictions to Xanax and alcohol may have failed, but the embarrassing disclosure might still pay off for him.  Under federal Bureau of Prisons policy, the 66-year-old Fumo could slash a year off his sentence by enrolling in a substance-abuse treatment program while incarcerated.   The former lawmaker thus conceivably could end up serving only three years behind bars.

In a July decision that sparked widespread anger, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter gave Fumo a 55-month prison sentence.  With time off for good behavior, Fumo would be expected to serve just four years of that.

Carla Wilson, a regional official with the Bureau of Prisons, said the year of reduced time for addiction treatment would be in addition to the discount for good behavior.  It was not known yesterday whether Fumo intended to seek admission to such a program.  The leaders of his legal team, Dennis J. Cogan and Samuel J. Buffone, did not return telephone calls.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer, who prosecuted Fumo along with Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Pease, declined to comment yesterday.  The two have filed notice that they wish to appeal Fumo's sentence, which they have called "unduly lenient."

A dominant political figure in Harrisburg and Philadelphia for almost three decades, Fumo was convicted in March of all 137 counts with which he had been charged. A jury found he had defrauded the Senate and a pair of nonprofit organizations of at least $2 million and tried to obstruct the FBI's investigation.

Congress added the sentence reduction for drug treatment to federal law in 1994 to give inmates an incentive to seek help. Linda Thomas, a spokeswoman with the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, said prisoners who seek to enroll in the program are vetted to verify their addictions. "If they are accepted," she said, "they would work with the team to address the [dependency] issues."

Inmates get varying amounts of reduction in their time based on the length of their sentence. Fumo could qualify for up to a year, the maximum permitted any prisoner.

Recent related posts on the Fumo sentencing:

August 22, 2009 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

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Comments


Hopefully, the BOP will see through this transparent attempt to further manipulate justice. The unduly lenient sentence has already tarnished the image of the federal judiciary in Philadelphia. Placement of a 66 year-old politician who was clearly not debilitated from a newly diagnosed use/overuse of prescription drugs will only debase the sentence further in the eyes of the public.

Posted by: mjs | Aug 22, 2009 8:20:10 PM

The BOP looks rather carefully into whether the "addiction" is documented in the PSR and it must have been present during the time frame for the offense; i.e., been a contributing factor in the commission of the crime ... not just conveniently discovered after being charged.

Posted by: Paul Kurtz | Aug 24, 2009 6:51:48 AM

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