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July 14, 2009

State senator Fumo gets below-guideline sentence of 55-months imprisonment on corruption charges

FumoI got this great graphic here and the breaking news concerning the federal sentencing outcomes from state senator Vince Fumo thanks to live-blogging here from folks in Philly.  After what appears to have been a full-day sentencing hearing, Fumo should now be full of thanks toward both the US District Judge Ronald Buckwalter and his defense attorney after receiving a sentence of less than five years for his crimes of fraud and corruption. 

According to press reports, the original sentencing recommendation from in his presentence report calculated a guideline sentencing range of 21 to 27 years in prison, but this range was cut in half by an initial guideline calculation ruling.   Prosecutors, in turn, argued for the imposition of an above-guideline sentence, but the district judge apparently though 55 months behind bar was "sufficient, but not greater than necessary" under these circumstances.   Though I have not followed the particulars of this case closely, I sense that it now stands as a testament to effective defense advocacy.

This early story from the Philadelphia Inquirerprovides some more the crime and punishment details, including the amusing suggestion from one sentencing witness that life in prison may be less stressful than life on the outside:

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John J. Pease and Robert A. Zauzmer had asked Buckwalter to impose a prison sentence of more than 15 years, while defense lawyers sought a sentence substantially shorter than the 11 to 14 years that could be imposed under the sentencing guidelines calculated by the judge.

They also asked the judge to fashion a sentence that would not be tantamount to death for Fumo, who they said has a shortened life expectancy because he suffers from heart problems, diabetes and other medical issues.  A lengthy prison term, they said, would in all likelihood mean that Fumo would die in prison.

Before today's sentencing, John Menenti, a Bureau of Prison's physician, challenged that assertion and suggested that prison would be a less stressful environment than the outside world of deadlines and cell phones.

You heard it here first: if you really need to book a special, get-away-from-it-all, less-stress vacation, be sure contact the travel agents at federal Bureau of Prison.  I know on good guideline authority that if one packs effectively — e.g., extra crack instead of powder, a gun along with the sunscreen — the government will try to send you to this "less stressful environment" (with all expenses paid) for quite a long time.

July 14, 2009 at 05:49 PM | Permalink


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"I sense that it now stands as a testament to effective defense advocacy."

Ha. Even if Madoff got proportionally the same reduction, he'd still get around 30 years.

Posted by: . | Jul 14, 2009 5:55:25 PM

No lawyer should sit on any bench.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 14, 2009 8:11:46 PM

True. 123D is what you want SC. Not even homeless on a park bench would satisfy your blood lust.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 14, 2009 8:30:29 PM

Most observers in Philadelphia view this sentence as a travesty of justice. Few of this jurist's colleagues would have been this "gracious" to a corrupt politician looking at an initial guideline calculation of 21 to 27 years. After reducing the amount of the loss, failing to make findings on other potential loss-increasing behavior, and jettisoning most other enhancements, the Court reduced the applicable guideline range to 11 to 14 years. The Court departed the guidelines crediting his extraordinary good works as a powerful yet corrupt state senator. The Court condoned lining your pockets with other people's money (OPM)as long as your constituents get some of the crumbs!

This is the by-product of advisory guidelines. Free of the guidelines and with the Government facing a heightened standard of appeal--(abuse of discretion)--this jurist felt free to impose his idiosyncratic view of justice in this case.

The Government may still get the last laugh as the guidelines found by the Court look infirm.

Posted by: m | Jul 14, 2009 9:04:37 PM

The Court condoned lining your pockets with other people's money (OPM)as long as your constituents get some of the crumbs!

Exactly how is 4½ years in prison “condoning” such behavior? Offhand, it sounds like a pretty stiff sentence to me. As Doug has pointed out on this site, one side-effect of the 150 years given to Bernie Madoff is that it makes everything else look short. But in reality 4½ years is pretty tough medicine, especially for a 66-year-old man with heart trouble.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 14, 2009 9:32:48 PM

I put this and the sentence Kent got down to everyone in the system being corrupt to some degree, and thus giving each other breaks whenever they do get caught. Hopefully the comment about the enhancement findings are true and he'll be re-sentenced.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 14, 2009 11:00:53 PM

Daniel: Just one minute there, pardner.

With the certainty of planetary orbits, there will be 17,000 extra-judicial executions this year. That number is 40% lower than before sentencing guidelines. These were made discretionary by the lawyer. So, there will be a steady increase in the rate over the next ten years, as the effect of the betrayal by the Supreme Court Justices percolates to the street, led by Scalia.

Most murderers will dispatch the victim with butcher style methods, quite below Eighth Amendment standards.

About 2000 people will die randomly at the hand of paranoid schizophrenics, kept on the loose by the lawyer. See the way the lawyer made sure the mass murderer at V Tech cold not even be criticized, nor reported to his family for help, let alone forced into treatment, without the risk of ruinous litigation by the lawyer. The lawyer hierarchy has proximate responsibility for preventing forced treatment of the mass murderer, and killed those random innocent people as is they pulled the trigger. Then, one notes only foreigners offered resistance, and saved dozens of other victims. The American male has been feminized and paralyzed by this feminist lawyer. The same happened on 9/11. A few foreign males intimidated hundreds of feminized, and lawyer paralyzed males. 9/11 would have been impossible to pull off on a foreign airline.

There will be a 6 fold heavier burden of murder victimization thanks to the racist lawyer that devalues the life of black victims.

There are about a million missing persons reports a year. About 100,000 a year remain unresolved. There is some possibility the number of murders is not 17,000 but 70,000. Thank the lawyer.

Abolitionists should look in the mirror before calling others rude adjectives. At some point, the public says, enough, and rises against the lawyer. Pass an Amendment. Exclude the lawyer from all benches, all legislative seats, and responsible policy positions in the Executive. Or, suffer the relentless count of 1000's of murders a year of today for the foreseeable future. As the sun rises in the East, and sets in the West.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 15, 2009 12:29:33 AM

Prof. Berman: This prominent lawyer seems to agree with the doctor, choosing years of prison over the life in BigLaw and over his divorce judge's tender mercies.


You will not discuss the injustice committed against this innocent victim of a rabid, out of control feminist judge. You only collect stories from extreme left wing propaganda front organizations, that further the lawyer rent seeking agenda.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 15, 2009 12:42:17 AM

The Beatty Chadwick story is indeed a fascinating one (14 yrs served for civil contempt of an order to disclose where he allegedly secreted over $2.5 million in assets during a divorce), and just released upon a ruling that any further effort to coerce his compliance would be futile. However, as one of his previous unsuccessful attorneys I can say (sorry SC if this doesn't fit your fixed worldview) that none of the many judges who ordered him incarcerated or denied his release were "rabid, out of control feminists." The were just a series of ordinary, state-court judges who concluded Chadwick was lying when he said he didn't know where the money went. The only judge who did order his release, almost ten years ago, on a federal habeas writ was Hon. Norma L. Shapiro, the first woman federal district judge in E.D.Pa., and certainly an avowed feminist. (She ruled that after a substantial period of confinement for civil contempt, a right to jury trial kicked in under the Constitution.) The judge who wrote the opinion for the Third Circuit reversing Judge Shapiro (and thus ordering Chadwick's continued incarceration for many years) was then-Circuit Judge Samuel A. Alito. I don't know if Justice Alito would consider himself a feminist, but I doubt it.

Posted by: Peter G | Jul 15, 2009 1:16:11 AM

Peter: Thank you for the great information. I defer to the facts, and admit being wrong about the feminist characterization. I am going to point to the hierarchy's crushing the lawyer who resists it, and with no recourse.

I have it covered with the Hilarious Immutable Law of Political Irony, where one gets the opposite of what one votes for (Bush in 2000 Debate, "There will be no nation building under my administration."). So the feminist judge has him released, and the anti-feminist judge reverses her. Funny and tragic.

If you know more facts in the public domain, I would appreciate any insight into how such an imprisonment can happen. He is on the rigid side in personality and a difficult person, from what his former wife said on TV. But what about those judges, could the same be said about them? Is this a person butting heads, just to preserve assets? He likely lost more earnings than he preserved by not going to work. Is civil contempt in a personal divorce a violation of the Rules of Conduct? Do civil defendants have no Eighth Amendment rights against excessive fines and cruel punishments? Or does the glib judge retort cover it, "He holds the key to the jail door. Any time he complies, he is free to go."?

Did he see living in jail as a form of thrift? He was on the thrifty side.

The taxpayer may have been better off settling with the wife, given the cost of 14 years of incarceration, no doubt including medical care of an older prisoner.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 15, 2009 4:14:12 AM

I am just a regular old Joe in America but what I have seen as a result of this trial is a mockery at best. 55 months for stealing millions of dollars, abusing the publics trust, abusing our Congressional system,....the abuse goes on and on in this case. Senator Vincent Fumo may have been what many call a powerful Senator who did a lot of good in his time. But that power made him a mad man in the public's eyes which lead him to feel or think he was above the law. Quite an example to set by a public official. Its quite sickening to see what our govt. has come to and what our thieving congressmen and women will stoop to to better themselves at the cost to others.

This kind of crap would never fly in other countries. This man would be hanging from a tree in China or any other nation of laws. Theft is theft. There is simply no way to sugar coat it. Period.

Posted by: Demitry | Jul 15, 2009 1:54:01 PM

Maybe only the lack of imagination and empathy explain the oft-stated view here that first offenders accused of non-violent crimes are somehow catching a break or getting off easy (or most preposterous of all, short-changing society's need to deter similar bad acts) with sentences of "only" five or 10 or 15 years.

What I've learned over the past two years of book research is just how devastating even the prospect of facing America's jaded, hurried due processes and typically draconian punishments can be for the accused and their families.

Intense fears about the dangers and indignities of prison life, humiliation accompanying prosecutors' vilification media campaigns and the beleaguered faces of family members suffering with the prospective loss and degradation of a loved one typically constitute severe punishment for folks like Fumo and other white collar defendants.

Defendants who intensely protest innocence typically encounter the smugly dismissive smirks of those who cling to the fiction innocent citizens have nothing to fear from the justice system.

For all but wealthy or destitute defendants, the financial costs are potentially ruinous. It's not uncommon for family members to mortgage homes to help defendants pay expenses.

Whether the sentence is three months of home detention or 30 years in prison, those who outlive it typically have little hope of finding self-sustaining jobs as ex-cons. Many end up living with parents or other family members.

And then, of course, there’s the prospect of languishing for five or 10 or 30 years in a noisy, volatile, dangerous environment far from families and possessions.

The judge in Fumo’s case deserves praise for disrupting what otherwise might have been a showy white-collar lynching of the sort the "Demitrys" of the world would prefer.

Posted by: John K | Jul 15, 2009 2:04:25 PM

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