Testimony ends in Fumo trial

Posted: February 20, 2009

After testimony from 105 people, the last witness stepped down yesterday in the marathon federal corruption trial of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, setting the stage for closing arguments next week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer is expected to spend most of Monday delivering the prosecution's closing, four months after fellow prosecutor John J. Pease gave the opening address Oct. 22.

After defense lawyers Dennis J. Cogan and Edwin J. Jacobs Jr. give their closing addresses, Zauzmer will deliver a rebuttal.

Once U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter gives final instructions to the jury, the 12 members will begin deliberations. That could happen Thursday or perhaps the next Monday, March 2. The trial has not been in session on Fridays.

Given the complexity of the case, the jury may ponder Fumo's fate for a while.

The once-powerful Philadelphia Democrat faces 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, tax violations, and obstruction of justice. (He was indicted on 139 counts, but on Monday prosecutors asked Buckwalter to dismiss two.)

Prosecutors allege that Fumo, 65, defrauded the Senate by having taxpayer-paid aides and consultants work as political operatives or personal servants. The government says Fumo's staff did much for him, from paying his bills to spying on an ex-girlfriend.

The government says he also defrauded a South Philadelphia nonprofit, Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods. Prosecutors say he stuck it with the bills for tools, consumer goods, farm equipment, political polls, a secret lawsuit, and more.

Fumo was once a board member of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, and prosecutors say he defrauded it, too, by taking a dozen free luxury cruises on museum yachts.

Finally, he is charged with obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege that as soon as Fumo realized he was under FBI investigation, he had his legislative computer staff expunge virtually all trace of his e-mails.

Ruth Arnao, a close Fumo friend who was executive director of Citizens' Alliance, is also charged with defrauding the nonprofit and with taking part in the alleged cover-up.

Arnao chose not to testify, but Fumo endured six grueling days on the stand. In all, his defense team, led by Cogan, put on testimony from 25 witnesses.

Prosecutors called 80 people. Their sole witness yesterday was lawyer Robert Scandone, who completed testimony that began late Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutors had called Scandone as a rebuttal witness. He disputed Fumo's testimony that Scandone had given him legal advice that it was all right to delete files while under FBI scrutiny.

This is the third time Fumo - who served in the Senate for 30 years before leaving at the end of his term Nov. 30 - has faced criminal charges.

He was charged in 1973 with election fraud, but the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office dropped the case before trial.

In 1980, he was indicted on federal charges of putting no-show employees on the state payroll. A jury convicted him, but the judge threw out the verdict, saying the indictment had legal flaws.


 

The Inquirer's live blog from the Fumo trial is at

To read more about the former state senator, go to


Contact staff writer Craig R. McCoy at 215-854-4821 or cmccoy@phillynews.com.

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