Kentucky prison's far from home for Fumo, in more ways than one

Former State Sen. Vince Fumo arrives at the federal prison camp in Ashland, Ky., his home for the next 55 months - maybe 48 with time off for good behavior.
Former State Sen. Vince Fumo arrives at the federal prison camp in Ashland, Ky., his home for the next 55 months - maybe 48 with time off for good behavior.
Posted: September 01, 2009

Vince Fumo reported to a minimum-security federal prison camp in Ashland, Ky., yesterday morning to begin serving his 55-month prison sentence for corruption.

Fumo, 66, wore a long-sleeved white dress shirt and blue jeans, and clutched a large envelope as he entered the prison, which is more than 500 miles southwest of Philadelphia, in the northeast corner of Kentucky, adjacent to Ohio and West Virginia.

There are 302 inmates at the prison camp in Ashland, which is next to a low-security prison housing 1,268 inmates.

Across the state, in Lexington, Ky., his co-defendant and former top aide, Ruth Arnao, 52, surrendered to Bureau of Prison officials yesterday to begin serving 366 days.

Fumo was accompanied by his son, Vincent E. Fumo; Andrew Cosenza, a friend and businessman; and two unidentified men.

Fumo and his fiancee, Carolyn Zinni, drove separately to Ashland over the weekend, said Fumo attorney Dennis Cogan. He said that she did not escort him to the prison, however.

Fumo's attorneys had asked U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter at sentencing on July 14 to recommend that Fumo be assigned to the federal prison camp near Lewisburg, about an hour north of Harrisburg, so that it would be easier for his family and fiancee to see him.

Federal judges can recommend where somebody serves time, but the decision is up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Carla Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons' northeast regional office, said that bureau policy is to house offenders within 500 miles of their release residence.

She said factors that weigh on the decision include the nature of the offense, the length of the sentence, the availability of beds, security concerns and programming needs.

She declined to elaborate further, but sources say it is not uncommon for defendants in high-profile cases such as Fumo's to be housed where they are unknown, far from their hometowns.

Fumo's arrival in federal prison is the final chapter in the political life of the South Philadelphia Democrat, who dominated state and local politics from 1978 to 2008.

The ex-state senator was convicted by a jury in March, after an epic 71-day trial, of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and related tax offenses.

Arnao will be housed in a female-only, minimum-security prison camp in Lexington, adjacent to the Federal Medical Center, which is an administrative center for male inmates.

She was convicted of 45 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and related tax offenses.

With time off for good behavior, Fumo could knock seven months off his sentence and Arnao about two months.

Both are appealing their convictions and sentences to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Prosecutors have asked permission from the U.S. Solicitor General to appeal Fumo's sentence to the appellate court.

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