Fumo guilty on all counts; must post $2 million bail

Former Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent J. Fumo returns to the U.S Courthouse in Philadelphia for a bail hearing this afternoon. Earlier he was found guilty on all charges by the jury in his corruption trial.
Former Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent J. Fumo returns to the U.S Courthouse in Philadelphia for a bail hearing this afternoon. Earlier he was found guilty on all charges by the jury in his corruption trial. (Tony Fitts)
Posted: March 16, 2009

Former State Sen. Vincent Fumo was convicted of all 137 counts against him today as his marathon federal corruption trial ended in a stunning victory for prosecutors.

The jury also found co-defendant Ruth Arnao guilty of all 45 counts against her.

After a 30-minute hearing this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter agreed to let Fumo and Arnao remain free pending sentencing although he ordered them to post bail of $2 million and $500,000, respectively, by Wednesday.

The two had been free on unsecured own-recognizance bail since they were charged.

Fumo's bail will be secured by properties he owns in Philadelphia and central Pennsylvania, the Jersey Shore and Florida; Arnao's will be secured by her home in Philadelphia.

Both defendants were ordered not to leave the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – nine counties in the southeastern part of the state – without court approval and to report in person once a week to federal pre-trial services personnel and three more times each week by phone.

Buckwalter did not set a sentencing date but scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning on how much in assets Fumo should be ordered to forfeit, based on the jury's finding that he illegally funneled public funds for his personal benefit.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a prison term of more than 10 years for the once-powerful politician.

Earlier, after the jury returned its verdict, Fumo, 65, embraced his daughter Allie and his girlfriend Carolyn Zinni, both of whom were weeping, as was Arnao.

Fumo looked nervous and ashen while waiting for the jury to return and the courtroom was packed as the jury forewoman announced one guilty verdict after another.

Buckwalter discharged the jury after all 12 members were polled and said they agreed with the verdicts, reached after a four-month trial and five days of deliberations.

Outside of court, juror Myrna DeVoren said Fumo had started out with good intentions that somehow became twisted.

"It is not a family-owned business," she said of Fumo's former Senate office.

DeVoren said the jurors looked for reasonable doubt, but found none.

"I'm very disappointed," said Fumo's defense attorney, Dennis J. Cogan, as he walked from the 17th floor courtroom at the U.S. Courthouse off Independence Mall. "But it's on now to the next part of the process."

Cogan said he would immediately move for a new trial for Fumo.

One issue that seems certain to be part of any appeal was this morning's news that one juror had posted apparent updates about deliberations on Facebook.com and Twitter.com.

"At a minimum we have a misstep here," said Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., Arnao's attorney.

Jacobs appeared devastated by the verdict, his face red and eyes wet with emotion.

"I never second guess a jury, the jury system is the bulwark of American justice," Jacobs said. "But I am certainly terribly disappointed. I honestly believed, and I still believe, that we presented a valid defense."

U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid said the verdicts were a victory for good government and the people of Pennsylvania.

She repeatedly repudiated Fumo's suggestion he was entitled to the spoils of his service. "'I am worth it' is not a defense," Magid said.

Mayor Nutter cast Fumo's downfall in the light of a political tragedy.

"It's certainly kind of a stunning conclusion to what has been a pretty stunning trial," he said. "We are a nation, state and city of laws. All of us are accountable to the law, especially those of us in public service who have, of course, a higher standard we all have to adhere to."

"I certainly wish Sen. Fumo and his family the best in these very trying and difficult times. He, in the true sense of public service, certainly did many things beneficial to Philadelphia and our region and the Commonwealth. But I think that today's jury verdict is further evidence that no matter how much good you do in public life, no matter even what your good intentions may be, none of us, none of us, are above the law."

That theme - that no one is above the law - was echoed by others, including State Sen. John Wozniak (D., Cambria), who has known Fumo for 28 years.

"I am shocked that it was guilty on all counts," Wozniak said. "He is still a friend, but nobody is above the law."

Gene Stilp, a longtime Harrisburg activist, said the vedict represented "the first glimmer of justice from the Capitol dome in many years" and said he hoped it would serve as an example for state lawmakers.

Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy and the former longtime editor of the Daily News, also noted the tragic roots of the case.

"It's terribly sad," he said. "I think Vince had a lot of positives going for him, but somehow he got undermined by all the negatives."

In Fumo's Fairmount neighborhood, the verdicts were greeted with some surprise.

"Every other time, he's gotten out of it," said mailman Dave Deorio, 37. "But they're not going to let people get away with it anymore."

Lisa Anderson, 46, bartender at the Belgian Cafe and longtime Fairmount resident who has done catering work at Fumo's mansion, said the state senator had done a lot of good for the neigborhood.

"I didn't think he would be found guilty," she said. "I thought he would get away with it for sure."

Reflecting on her own experiences with Fumo, Anderson said, "I always got the feeling he was used to having people wait on him."

The verdicts were announced after the judge ruled that a juror who posted oblique remarks regarding the case on Twitter.com and Facebook.com could remain on the jury.

Defense lawyers late Sunday filed a motion asking Buckwalter to halt the deliberations and remove the juror after he posted a note saying, "Stay tuned for a big announcement on Monday everyone!"

Buckwalter denied the motion after questioning the juror.

Defense lawyers said the juror had indicated in a closed door hearing that the panel had already reached a verdict.

As soon as word spread that a verdict was imminent, the large courtroom began filling with friends and family of the defendants, prosecutors and law clerks, federal agents and reporters. By 11:32 a.m., more than 100 people packed into the room and court officers directed a limited number of people to stand along the far wall of the courtroom before barring anyone else from entering.

The 12 jurors filed in five minutes later and Buckwalter asked the audience for quiet, explaining that jury forewoman Karen White was never asked to have to deliver this type of news before such a large audience.

White then began the 11-minute process of announcing the verdict on each of the 141 counts spread over the 18-page form charging Fumo and Arnao variously with counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and filing false tax returns.

By count 65, White's voice began to cloud from speaking in the hot courtroom and she asked for water before continuing. She had more water at count 99. The monotonous repetition of guilty verdicts tripped White only once, causing her to announce a guilty verdict for Fumo on a count in which only Arnao was charged.

Fumo was charged with conspiring to defraud the state Senate by using employees for personal and political-campaign work on state time.

He also was charged with defrauding the South Philadelphia nonprofit, Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, by getting it to pay for thousands of tools, consumer goods and other items.

Arnao, a former aide to Fumo who headed Citizens' Alliance, was charged in that conspiracy.

Fumo also was charged with defrauding the Independence Seaport Museum by getting free yacht cruises.

He and Arnao also were accused of conspiring to obstruct FBI and IRS investigation.

Fumo, a senator since 1978, had been one of the most powerful Democrats in Philadelphia and in Harrisburg. He chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and also influenced elections for City Council, judgeships and the state legislature.


Staff writer Gail Shister contributed to this report.

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