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July 17, 2009

"Feds seek to appeal 'unreasonable' Fumo sentence"

The title of this piece is the headline of this new article suggesting that the story concerning the a recent high-profile white-collar sentencing is not quite over:

Federal prosecutors stung by this week's 55-month sentence for a long-powerful Pennsylvania lawmaker in a sprawling corruption case will seek to appeal the ruling. Prosecutors call Vincent Fumo's term "unduly lenient and unreasonable" and plan to ask the Justice Department to sign off on an appeal.

Fumo, a Philadelphia Democrat who amassed vast power during 30 years in the state senate, was sentenced Tuesday for misappropriating millions from the coffers of the state senate and two nonprofits. "In opinion articles, letters to the editor, e-mails, blog postings, and a flood of phone calls to our office and, we believe, to this Court, thousands of citizens expressed their dismay at the unduly lenient sentence imposed on Fumo," prosecutors wrote in court papers filed Friday....

Fumo, 66, is due to report to prison on Aug. 31. He must also pay $2.4 million in restitution and fines.  Prosecutors argued that he defrauded the senate and charities of more than $4 million.  They disclosed their plans to appeal in a sentencing memo filed Friday for co-defendant Ruth Arnao, who faces sentencing Tuesday on 45 counts.

Needless to say, I am intrigued to see the Government's reference to "blog postings" in its account of the public dialogue concerning Fumo's sentence.

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July 17, 2009 at 04:45 PM | Permalink


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Governor Rendell wrote a strong letter of character recommendation to the judge, during the sentencing phase. It may have unduly influenced the judge decision.


Yet, no law has been broken. And it is settled. There is no basis for an ethics investigation of this brazen interference with the deliberation of the judge, by a powerful politician, notorious for retaliation against all enemies. This is despite the clearly words of 8.4 (d).

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 17, 2009 7:34:32 PM

What should this guy get?


Posted by: federalist | Jul 17, 2009 7:41:39 PM

federalist --

The book. I suppose his "defense" at sentencing will be that he has some type of insecurity, or issues with women, or was depressed, or is bipolar, or all the other stuff that gets routinely trotted out when the facts become undeniable.

And I agree he has a problem. The problem is that he's an abusive thug.

The book.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2009 10:03:54 PM

For others interested, the headline of the story linked by federalist is "California officer admits to sexual assault while on duty." Without more facts, I am chary to assert what this guy "should" get, but I am willing to predict he gets a much longer prison term than former Judge Samuel Kent, even though he victimized less women for less long and did not lie about it either.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jul 17, 2009 10:38:17 PM

Doug --

Kent, bad as he was, didn't kidnap his victims and didn't implicitly threaten them with a loaded gun if they didn't submit to him. As to whether this cop lied about it, I don't know. Many defendants lie at first, and come clean only when the plea agreement is reached.

And, as ever, assuming arguendo that Kent's sentence was unjustifiably low, the fact of irrational leniency in Case X is scarcely a reason to condone, much less advocate, irrational leniency in Case Y. (N.B. I'm not saying that YOU are advocating any such thing). Were it otherwise, we would be creating the Frankenstein's monster of sentencing: a one-way, downward ratchet in which the most outrageously lenient sentence becomes the touchstone for all future sentencings. Ugh!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 17, 2009 11:16:28 PM

My sympathies to anyone who believes a five-year prison sentence for a 66-year-old man in poor health is overly lenient.

Posted by: John K | Jul 18, 2009 10:57:13 AM

John K --

Your sympathies might better attend the victims.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 18, 2009 2:51:34 PM

Neither my sympathies nor the number of years Fumo languishes in prison is likely to make much difference in the lives of his victims.

My point was that Fumo's dramatic loss of position, dignity and respect are likely to be as punishing as whatever arbitrarily determined sentence he ends up with.

A longer sentence seems likely to accomplish little more than to punish Fumo's family (who will suffer every day he's in prison worrying about his safety and health) and to feed the somewhat overheated punishment-prison fantasies of the ever-angry mob.

Posted by: John K | Jul 18, 2009 4:18:07 PM

John K ,

Is there any proof that this sort of crime actually transforms someone into persona non grata in political circles? Certainly Scooter Libby hasn't appeared to suffer all that greatly for his convictions. Perhaps the only way to deal with political crooks is to put them away.

If he makes it through his federal sentence he'll just move on to a different position in the power structure. Certainly at a lower rung due to being out of the game for so long, but not politically dead. This sort of corruption should bring a death sentence. Politicians aren't to be trusted at the best of times.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 18, 2009 10:56:26 PM

Soronel wrote-- "...any proof that this sort of crime actually transforms someone into persona non grata in political circles?"

No proof but tons of anecdodtal support. I've been in touch with numerous government targets and their families. And for families whose only previous brush with the law was a speeding ticket, these circumstances can change the way they think about themselves in painful, destructive ways.

And I'm less concerned about Fumo's fall from grace with fellow pols (in fact I wholeheartedly agree, Soronel, that most of them probably deserve firing squads). I was talking about his self-image and place in society.

Fumo used to be somebody...a man of substantial importance; if he outlives his prison term, he'll be an ex-con in the eyes of friends, family, society and most importantly, Fumo himself. That's the stuff of tragic literature. Marking time in prison isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Beyond that, a fine line separates "corruption" from business as usual in politics. My guess is Fumo, and many other white collar criminals (maybe even including Madoff), get into trouble more as a consequence of denial and delusion than intentional criminal calculation. In my world, if not in the law, the lack of criminal intent still counts for something.

"Certainly Scooter Libby hasn't appeared to suffer all that greatly for his convictions."

Maybe. But if he's like some of the folks I've met, I'll bet he gets sick to his stomach everytime he hears someone popping off about "convicted felons" (is there another kind?) or ex-cons. I'll bet Martha Stewart does, too.

Put another way, you might be under-estimating the crushing, stigmatizing life-altering experience being set upon by a powerful, pitiless government can be...even for the rich and powerful amongst us.

Posted by: John K | Jul 19, 2009 12:38:53 PM

John K --

Your sympathy invariably lies with cheaters, bullies and crooks like Fumo, and your antipathy with those who earn a normal living by trying to bring them to book.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 19, 2009 7:43:33 PM

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