Vincent J. Fumo, a former Pennsylvania senator found guilty by a jury of all 137 counts against him, could have been sentenced to 21 to 27 years. Yesterday, the federal judge in the case, Ronald L. Buckwalter, gave him four years and seven months.
Fumo defrauded the Pennsylvania State Senate of more than $1 million. He defrauded the charity he founded, Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, of more than $1 million. He defrauded the Independent Seaport Museum of more than $100,000. He used Senate employees to clean his house and manage home improvements in his 33-room mansion. Then, when the authorities started sniffing around, he obstructed justice by destroying records and e-mail.
I am outraged.
So are many people in Philadelphia. Writers and columnists at the Philadelphia Inquirer are all over the story—they think the guy skated. So do the readers. The Inquirer’s website has a poll question, “Do you think the sentence was too lenient?” Nearly 90 percent of the respondents said yes.
Apparently, Vince put on quite a show at the sentencing hearing yesterday. He walked in pushing one of his supporters in a wheelchair. He cried. He pleaded that he never meant to take anything from anyone.
So 300 people sent letters to the judge, most of them supporting Vince. And the judge considered all of the former power broker’s “good works.” The judge also apparently felt that when it came to Vince Fumo, the media were on a witchhunt.
Personally, I applaud all the coverage that the Philadelphia Inquirer and other news organizations gave this case. The only way it could have been improved would be to explain to the public why Vince Fumo did what he did—because he was a sociopath.
Sigh. This is going to be a long education process.
For coverage of the sentencing, read: