Judge expected frustration over sentence

    The federal judge who presided over the lengthy corruption trial of former Pennsylvania state Senator Vincent Fumo and his co-defendant Ruth Arnao says he expected the public backlash over his lenient sentence of Fumo, and stands firm in his decision.

    The federal judge who presided over the lengthy corruption trial of former Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Fumo and his co-defendant Ruth Arnao says he expected the public backlash over his lenient sentence of Fumo, and stands firm in his decision. Prosecutors argued that public opinion should be heard.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090721spcourt.mp3]

    Before U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter handed down a sentence of a year and a day to Fumo’s aide Ruth Arnao, he spoke about the backlash he received from sentencing Fumo to less than half of what the guidelines called for.

    Buckwalter said he is not swayed by public opinion, which he says was fed by inaccurate reports in the media.

    Buckwalter: The power of the press can be frightening. And I find it somewhat troubling in this case that the Philadelphia newspaper whose aim is rightly to inform the public has aided in turning an ongoing court case into a public spectacle and by its coverage and editorials has led the public to expect that long prison terms are the only just outcome.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer said media coverage was accurate. And in this case, the courts should listen to public opinion.

    Prosecutors are pursuing an appeal of Fumo’s sentence, and could do the same with Arnao.

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