Following two eventful days of resentencing hearings capped off by an allocution in which he showed little remorse, former state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo received six additional months in prison on Thursday, at least partly because of a series of e-mails he sent from prison in which he complained that he had been unjustly convicted by a “dumb, corrupt and prejudiced” jury and expressed a desire to exact vengeance on several foes.
Fumo was sentenced in July 2009 to 55 months in prison for fraud, obstruction of justice and tax convictions after a federal judge announced that he had decided to depart down from a recommended 10-year prison term because of Fumo’s extraordinary public service.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Senior Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter extended Fumo’s sentence to 61 months, which he said is more consistent with other similar cases across the country than the 15 years prosecutors had pushed for.
The courtroom was silent as Buckwalter read the sentence, which also requires Fumo to pay about $3.4 million in restitution and about $400,000 in fines.
Fumo showed little emotion as the sentence was read, but his fiancee, Carolyn Zinni, could be seen smiling and hugging loved ones as the courtroom emptied out.
Buckwalter said the prison e-mails, which were made public by the prosecution prior to the resentencing hearing, gave him “the most pause” in reconsidering Fumo’s sentence.
Despite having found the government’s decision to release private communications between Fumo and loved ones including his fiancee and daughter “offensive,” Buckwalter nevertheless said the e-mails showed the former senator to have “a strong desire for revenge,” “a complete lack of respect for our legal framework” and “no true sense of remorse.”
“I think his only sense of remorse is for the condition he now finds himself in,” Buckwalter said.
In a statement to the press read outside the courthouse after sentencing Thursday, U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said the prosecution was “disappointed” and would be “evaluating the record” to determine whether it will appeal.
“But we respect the consideration that there comes a time when finality is needed,” he added.
Buckwalter said that the prosecutors’ recommendation of at least 15 years in prison extended “beyond deterrence” and that Fumo, having been stripped of his law license and banned from ever running again for a legislative seat, does not pose a threat to society upon his release.
Buckwalter did, however, note that he was “troubled” by the desire Fumo expressed in several e-mails to try his hand at lobbying if released from prison.
During his allocution, Fumo joked that he didn’t think he’d make a good lobbyist anyway since he’s “not a good ass-kisser.”
Buckwalter also criticized the prosecution for charging Fumo with 137 counts in its original indictment, saying the charges constituted the type of “excessive — and potentially unfair — expression of power” cautioned against in the federal prosecutors’ manual.
At one point early in the day Thursday, Buckwalter asked Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease about an article he had read that claimed the prosecution had originally offered Fumo a plea deal for a five-year prison sentence.
Pease said the offer was made but those discussions “never got off the ground.”
Fumo’s attorney, Dennis Cogan, however, told the judge that the talks were much further along than that, alleging the prosecution had actually offered Fumo a plea deal with a five-year cap in which an even lower sentence could be negotiated but that he had been too new to the case at the time to make a recommendation as to whether his client should have accepted it.
Cogan added that, at one point, former U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan called him into his office urging him to take the deal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer then clarified that when Pease said those discussions “never got off the ground” he had meant that the defense had declined to accept the plea deal.
In his arguments Thursday, Pease called Fumo “a thief” who is “utterly corrupt and dishonest to his core.”
Cogan, in his arguments, said the prosecution’s decision to make public Fumo’s prison e-mails “seemed more intended as a press release move associated with the mudslinging of political campaigns.”
Just before Buckwalter called for a two-hour recess prior to sentencing, Fumo took to the podium with Cogan at his side to read a lengthy prepared statement in which he apologized to his friends and family, as well as to Buckwalter for having to “relive this thing.”
But Fumo, dressed for the second day in a green prison jumpsuit and speaking in slightly hoarse voice, spent the bulk of his time Thursday claiming the prosecution and media have unjustly attacked him and bemoaning his prison conditions.
Fumo specifically challenged the allegation by the prosecutors that he perjured himself during trial.
“Any time I conflicted with them it wasn’t a dispute, it was perjury,” he said.
Buckwalter, however, said Fumo’s claims that he has been made a political target “ring hollow.”
Fumo also took issue with accusations that he never had the alcohol or prescription drug problem he claimed to have, both of which the prosecution and its witnesses spent a large portion of Wednesday’s hearing alleging.
Fumo said he had “laid before the world openly” his drug and alcohol abuse.
“I’ve been clean ever since I entered prison, but many times I still long for some Xanax,” he said, referring to one of the prescription anxiety medications he has claimed to be addicted to. “This might be one of those times.”
Fumo also said the prosecution’s accusations that he sent anonymous Christmas gifts to the poor using his political PAC’s money were also untrue, noting that, even since his incarceration, he has arranged for Zinni to bring gifts to poor neighborhoods during the Christmas season.
“God should strike me dead if I’m not telling you the truth on that and I wish he would,” Fumo said.
Buckwalter declined to consider the validity of Fumo’s drug and alcohol abuse claims but did acknowledge Fumo’s charity work.
Buckwalter said he did not, however, believe Fumo’s health problems, which include heart disease and diabetes, put him at significant risk in prison as alleged by the defense.
Fumo said he’s spent time in solitary confinement in the prison near Ashland, Ky., where he’s currently incarcerated. He said prison officials told him the reason for this was the “broad-based publicity” surrounding his case.
Fumo added that one of the worst things about the time he’s served so far was not knowing how long his sentence would ultimately be.
“All the other inmates there knew what their sentence was,” he said. “When you know that you can pace yourself. I didn’t and I still don’t.”
Buckwalter agreed that Fumo had “endured the unusual — not cruel, but unusual — circumstance of having to contemplate his fate for the second time.”
Fumo also told Buckwalter he resented prosecutors’ assertions that he was not a hardworking senator and did not go above and beyond a typical senator’s scope of duty, claiming he “gave his life to the Senate and government.”
“There were seven senators in Philadelphia, and not to disparage my colleagues, but what did the others do?” he said.
Buckwalter said he could not ignore Fumo’s public service, but added that he gave “far greater weight” to the more than 200 character letters he received in which supporters praised Fumo for everything from saving a home from impending foreclosure to fulfilling the role of a father figure for a young man who had lost his own father.
Conversely, Buckwalter said he gave no consideration to the disparaging letters he received since most of them “expressed outrage with no understanding of the legal basis” upon which his original sentence was rendered.
Following Fumo’s allocution, Buckwalter asked him why Philadelphia politicians believe certain acts are not illegal, such as Fumo’s hiring of a private investigator — using taxpayer money — to tail an ex-girlfriend.
Fumo said he didn’t know at the time that the investigator had been paid using tax dollars and that he never believed he was breaking the law while engaged in such activity.
But Buckwalter said Fumo displayed an “offensive degree of arrogance” in his crimes and that, based upon Thursday’s allocution, little had changed.
Fumo was “unwilling even today to acknowledge his acts were wrong,” Buckwalter said, adding that the sentence he imposed was intended to send a message to other potential white-collar criminals that they will face stiff fines and restitution, loss of their political positions and pensions, public humiliation and “the ultimate degradation of incarceration.”
When asked after the sentencing whether he had wished Fumo had appeared more contrite, Cogan said Fumo has maintained the same position throughout the trial.
“At least he’s been consistent,” Cogan quipped to reporters after the sentencing.