A Vince Fumo version of “the devil made me do it” emerged in the first day of his re-sentencing hearing on corruption charges Wednesday.
A good bit of the day dealt with testimony about Fumo’s medical condition generally, and whether he has a history as a boozer and pill-popper specifically.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Fumo is faking a drug and alcohol addiction to scam his way into a shorter sentence.
He’s applied for a special prison treatment program that could cut as much as a year from his prison term if he’s accepted. But the feds say that if you review everything in Fumo’s past, including medical and psychiatric records, there’s nothing about him having either a drinking or drug addiction problem until he figured out he could benefit from it.
And prosecutors said that as part of his application for the prison treatment program, Fumo wrote that his addiction “directly contributed my criminality.”
Defense attorneys countered with pharmaceutical records showing Fumo getting copious amounts of xanax, ambien and percocet in 2006 and 2007, and they produced a photo of pills from Fumo’s medicine cabinet that attorney Dennis Cogan called “something you’d see in Michael Jackson’s house.”
Judge Ronald Buckwalter didn’t seem all that impressed with the whole issue, since he has nothing to do with whether Fumo gets into the treatment program.
Prosecutors believe it shows just how dishonest Fumo is, which they noted is abundantly demonstrated in the 2009 trial record.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer recounted many of what he said were 27 times Fumo lied to the jury about his criminal conduct, describing Fumo’s testimony at times as “flagrantly false,” and “wildly false.”
The defense team will have more Thursday, and the whole proceeding should end dramatically with Fumo addressing Buckwalter directly.
Below are other posts from yesterday’s testimony….
UPDATED 3 p.m. Wednesday:
An old nemesis of Fumo returned today. Vicki Humphreys, the dogged FBI agent who spent more than four years investigating the former senator took the witness stand.
Prosecutors called Humphreys to undermine any notion that Fumo was personally charitable, and to buttress their case that Fumo had faked a drug addiction to get into a special program that could give him an early release.
Humphries said she’d contacted the owner Ten Pennies, a South Philadelphia florist who had written Judge Buckwalter in 2009 to urge leniency for Fumo. Prosecutor Robert Zauzmer said the florist’s letter said Fumo had for years spent thousands on flowers to be sent anonymously to people around holidays.
Humphreys testified that her investigation showed that Fumo had spent more than $350,000 on flowers around holiday time since 2000, but the bills were covered not by Fumo, but by his Senate campaign committee.
And, she testified, it appeared the flowers were mostly for big fundraisers he’d held around those times.
Humphreys also reviewed a number of records suggesting that Fumo’s friends and therapists never reported a substance abuse problem until he was facing prison and was looking for admission to the Residential Drug Abuse Program, which could result in an early release.
Fumo’s attorneys are sure to give Humphreys a tough cross-examination.
UPDATED 2 p.m. Wednesday:
It’s clear Judge Buckwalter is sensitive about some of the criticism he’s received in the media and in letters for his original sentence for Fumo.
When questioning Pennsylvania Ethics Commission executive director John Contino about what he’d heard from people about the Fumo case, Buckwalter asked, “Did anybody tell you that the case must have been fixed, and the judge should be investigated?”
Contino replied that he hadn’t heard that, at least not from anybody in a professional opinion.
Most of the morning’s testimony has focused on Fumo’s medical condition and treatment. Two issues are at stake here. Fumo’s attorneys will seek a lower sentence because of Fumo’s many medical problems and his need for better care.
And second, prosecutors charged in a filing that Fumo has tried to defraud the government by faking a drug and alcohol addiction in order to get into a special prison substance treatment program which could give him an early release.
John Manenti, regional medical director for the Bureau of Prisons testified Fumo has gotten regular and good care in prison, and that tests show his diabetes symptoms and kidney function have actually improved since he entered the joint.
And the doc said toxicology tests upon Fumo’s entry into prison showed him free of the medications he claimed he was addicted to.
Defense attorney Samuel Buffone challenged Manenti’s assertions that Fumo was getting top quality care, and that he could say the former pol was free of the drugs in question when he was admitted to the joint.
UPDATE 10:30 a.m. Wednesday:
Proceedings are underway at the re-sentencing hearing for convicted State Senator Vince Fumo.
The sight of Fumo being led into court was shocking to those used to seeing the former power broker in finely-tailored suits and expensive haircuts.
Fumo appeared in black sneakers and a baggy green prison jump suit that showed the weight he’s gained in prison. His hands were cuffed behind his back. He had a full grey beard, and his grey hair seemed slightly shaggy.
Fumo’s face bore a sad expression, though he smiled as he turned around and saw friends and family in the courtroom. As attorneys began their arguments, he sat with with his head slightly bowed.
Fumo was convicted of 137 corruption counts in 2009. Prosecutors appealed his sentence of 55 months in prison as too lenient, and a federal appeals court ordered trial judge Ronald Buckwalter to re-sentence Fumo.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 17 to 22 years, but Buckwalter has wide discretion in deciding what sentence to impose.
The first witness in the hearing was John Contino, executive director of the state Ethics Commission.
He testified that sentences in cases like Fumo’s are important in setting standards of behavior for government officials in Pennsylvania.