The judge who gave former state Sen. Vince Fumo of Philadelphia 55 months in prison on corruption charges has set Nov. 9 as the day he will reconsider the sentence. At a hearing Monday morning, Judge Ronald Buckwalter rejected a defense request that Fumo be allowed to participate via video conference.
“I want him here,” Buckwalter said. “I want to talk to him and see him face to face.”
A federal appeals court ordered Buckwalter to resentence Fumo after prosecutors appealed, saying the sentence was too lenient.
Fumo is serving his 55-month sentence at the federal penitentiary in Ashland, Ky.
Fumo’s attorney Dennis Cogan said the request for a video conference was to spare the 68-year-old former senator the rigors of a circuitous journey on prison buses.
“They call it, among prisoners in the United States, ‘diesel therapy,’ ” Cogan said to reporters after the hearing, referring to the Bureau of Prisons methods of delivering inmates to court appearances.
“The youngest prisoners think it’s next to torture,” Cogan said. “You’re put on a bus, and you’re taken from place to place to place, and it takes three weeks sometimes just to get somebody up here.”
Fumo’s attorneys asked Buckwalter to direct that Fumo be at least provided with direct transportation from Kentucky to Philadelphia. Buckwalter said he would look into that.
Cogan also said in court that Fumo was mistakenly placed in solitary confinement in late August when the circuit court decision made the news.
“They put him in the hole, in the SHU (special housing unit),” Cogan said in court.
Cogan said he and Fumo family members spent two days getting Fumo transferred back to the prison’s general population, so they could speak to him on the phone.
“He was in such bad shape that he couldn’t even address us on the phone, he couldn’t even discuss it,” Cogan said. “He hadn’t slept, he hadn’t had any medicines, so we had to postpone the phone call for two days. Two days later, he still hadn’t been put back on his medicines.”
Cogan said Fumo needs his regimen of medications for heart disease, anxiety and depression, and he worries that if Fumo doesn’t get direct transportation to Philadelphia for the sentencing hearing, he won’t be in condition to participate.
Prosecutors didn’t dispute Cogan’s assertion that Fumo had been placed in solitary, but wouldn’t comment on it afterwards. A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons said she couldn’t comment on Fumo, but said inmates in the special housing unit receive their medications and get medical attention.
Prosecutors argued for a prison term of at least 15 years when Fumo was sentenced two years ago.