Court orders new look at Fumo sentence

    A federal appeals court has tossed out the four and a half-year prison term given to former Philadelphia State Senator Vince Fumo, ordering trial judge Ronald Buckwalter to hold a new sentencing hearing.

    The judges were responding to a motion from prosecutors who believed Fumo deserved a much heavier sentence than the 55 months Buckwalter game him.

    While the 2 to 1 decision doesn’t instruct Buckwalter to impose a longer sentence, former U.S. Attorney Peter Vaira said he believes that’s likely.

    “I believe the sentence will be increased somewhat,” Vaira said.

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    Buckwalter’s sentencing in July, 2009 ended Philadelphia’s most notorious political corruption case in years. A jury convicted Fumo, a statewide power broker for decades, of 137 counts of corruption, many involving theft of taxpayer funds and obstruction of a federal investigation.

    In explaining his sentence, Buckwalter cited Fumo’s many good works for the public.

    “It’s not a murder. It’s not a robbery,” Buckwalter said from the bench. “It’s not the selling of a political office.”

    Prosecutors appealed, saying the judge hadn’t followed proper procedures in calculating the seriousness of Fumo’s crimes, and hadn’t adequately explained his sentence. The ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals means Buckwalter will have to hold a new sentencing hearing.

    Fumo’s attorney Peter Goldberger says there’s nothing in the decision that requires a harsher sentence, and he said his client didn’t get off easy.

    “A sentence of almost five years is not a lenient sentence,” Goldberger said in a telephone interview. “It is true that some other sentences in public corruption cases have been longer. Those sentences were too harsh.”

    Vaira said from his reading of the circuit court opinion, Fumo is likely to get between one and two years added to his sentence.

    Fumo can appeal the decision. Goldberger said he and Fumo’s co-counsel will discuss the matter with their client in prison.



    Prior report:

    Well, well well. Just as we turn our full attention to the Arlene Ackerman saga, Vince Fumo pops back into the headlines.

    A U.S. appeals court has sided with prosecutors to toss the former senator’s 55-month corruption sentence, the Associated Press reports. Why would prosecutors want a sentence tossed? Back in May, they argued for a new sentence on grounds that U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter did not explain why he sentenced Vincent Fumo far below federal sentencing guidelines.

    Fumo was convicted in 2009 of various fraud charges worth millions.

    WHYY’s Dave Davies is gathering more details.



    Your thoughts: Do you agree that the original sentence was too lenient? Let us know in the comments below.

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