« Tom DeLay gets three-year prison sentence for state conspiracy and money laundering convictions | Main | Missouri Governor commutes death sentence to LWOP based on innocence concerns »

January 11, 2011

Feds make case to Third Circuit that corruption sentence too low for state senator

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "Prosecutors argue for stiffer sentence for Fumo," a real interesting sentencing appeal is heating up in the Third Circuit. Here are the basics:

Federal prosecutors Monday again ripped into a judge's decision to reduce former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo's sentence for corruption in return for what the judge called Fumo's "extraordinary" public service.

Drawing upon an FBI investigation of Fumo's travel, the prosecutors said the claim that Fumo toiled tirelessly for the public was both a cliché and a myth. In fact, Fumo "devoted a huge amount of time to vacationing and leisure activities," spending a quarter of his time on holiday in Martha's Vineyard and Florida.

The two prosecutors noted that besides serving as a Democratic legislator, Fumo worked as a "rainmaker" for a Philadelphia law firm and was the chairman of a bank. The firm paid him nearly $1 million yearly to drum up business, and the bank also compensated him heavily....

On Monday, the prosecutors fired their final salvo, a 204-page brief, in their fight to have Fumo hauled back into court to face a resentencing in his 2009 corruption conviction.

In a decision that stirred widespread public outrage, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter sentenced Fumo to serve 55 months in prison for his crimes. A jury found Fumo guilty on every count in a massive indictment that charged the once-powerful legislator with defrauding the state Senate and two nonprofit organizations, and with leading the cover-up to try to thwart the FBI's probe.

The government sought a much stiffer term, agreeing with a conclusion by the U.S. Probation Office that Fumo's wrongdoing meant he should face up to 27 years behind bars under nonmandatory federal sentencing guidelines.

Buckwalter interpreted the guidelines far differently. He said they called for Fumo to receive a punishment of at most 14 years. Then, he gave the Democrat a big break because of his record in office over 30 years. "You worked hard for the public, and you worked extraordinarily hard, and I'm therefore going to grant a departure from the guidelines," the judge said.

Fumo, 67, has now served 17 months of his sentence, at a prison in Kentucky. After one more filing from the defense and probable oral arguments, he and the public will likely learn later this year whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will affirm his sentence or order a new sentencing hearing.

In a defense filing last month, Fumo's legal team said that Buckwalter was on firm legal ground in crafting the sentence and that the Third Circuit court should not second-guess the judge.

In Monday's brief and an even longer one filed last year, the prosecutors said Buckwalter had made numerous errors in calculating the guidelines applicable to Fumo and a codefendant, former Senate aide Ruth Arnao. Arnao is now free, having served her sentence of one year behind bars. Buckwalter, they wrote in Monday's filing, made "fundamental mistakes, on the basis of no stated reasoning, which contributed significantly to the grossly lenient sentences imposed in this case."

Citing a Third Circuit precedent, they said that the judge had failed to heed a rule that corrupt officials should not get special credit for "civic and charitable work," because "we expect such work from our public servants." Such credit should only be given when the official "goes well beyond the call of duty and sacrifices for the community," the appellate court ruled.

But Fumo, the prosecutors said, did not work especially hard. And, they added, "he presented no evidence that he sacrificed in any other way; rather he used his public position to gain great riches (and steal more), and gave almost none of it to charity."

Related posts concerning Fumo sentencing and appeal:

January 11, 2011 at 09:56 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Feds make case to Third Circuit that corruption sentence too low for state senator:


Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB