Via e-mails, news of Vince: Fumo son is information clearinghouse

Former State Senator Vince Fumo is shown the way by a prison employee as he arrives at Ashland Federal Correctional Facility.
Former State Senator Vince Fumo is shown the way by a prison employee as he arrives at Ashland Federal Correctional Facility.
Posted: September 02, 2009

EVEN in federal prison in Ashland, Ky., Vincent J. Fumo, No. 62033-066, has connections among its 300 prisoners.

The former state senator, who started serving a 55-month sentence on Monday, met a South Philly pal inside his new "minimum security" home, 525-miles from Philadelphia.

The unidentified South Philly pal "called home to his wife with a message that dad was ok and he'd be in contact in a few days," Fumo's son, Vincent E. Fumo, wrote in his first e-mail dispatch at 11:33 a.m. yesterday to his father's "large group of core friends and family."

"I can't tell you what a relief that was to hear," wrote Fumo's son, who identified himself as "Vincent Fumo II, (or Jr., if you prefer)."

Calling himself the "temporary head of the family," the younger Fumo advised friends and family that everything must go through him - prescreening for visits, setting up phone calls and any conversation about business.

This was the younger Fumo's second time keeping loyalists abreast of his father's activities. During his father's six-month federal public-corruption trial, the younger Fumo wrote a daily public blog for three days, then made it private.

Fumo was convicted in March of 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and tax violations.

On Monday, Fumo, his fiancée, the younger Fumo and "a couple other friends got together for breakfast and chatted before we headed out for the prison," the son reported.

During the nine-hour ride home, the younger Fumo wrote, "I started wondering how he was and realized I couldn't know. My usual way of contacting him was attached to my belt. I wouldn't know until he contacted me.

"That wasn't a good feeling at all, but all I could do was accept it and move on. What I can't control is not something I need to stress over," he added.

"Luckally [sic], I got a call from Carolyn [Zinni, his father's fiancée] a few hours later," Fumo II wrote regarding his father meeting the South Philly prisoner, whose wife called Zinni on behalf of the ex-senator.

Being cautious, Fumo II wanted to establish ground rules for his dispatches "because this [e-mail] list is large, there is a potential for emails I send to be leaked to others.

"None of my emails are for public release to the press or other parties. They are strictly between you and me," he added.

When reached yesterday by the Daily News, the younger Fumo asked, "Are you on my [e-mail] list?

"It's supposed to be a private e-mail for friends," he added.

"But it's Vince!" this reporter said.

"Understandable, but he's also my dad," he replied.

"Please use discretion," he added, declining to comment further.

The northeastern Kentucky "minimum security" camp is next to the main "low security" federal prison, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

"It's not behind double gates and barbed wire and seems to be nicer and less imposing," wrote Fumo II, in a kinder, gentler description than that of Fumo's attorneys.

Defense attorney Peter Goldberger had described the prison as being "on the outer edge of reasonableness," because of its distance and lack of treatment for his client's substance abuse.

Yesterday, Goldberger, who was not on Fumo's e-mail list, called the dispatches "a good idea for friends and family members to help each other to keep in touch."

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease declined to comment.

As his father began to adjust to prison life, the younger Fumo wrote: "The guards we met there were very professional and courteous. Overall, I felt ok with the situation. It seemed, under the circumstances, to be a lot better than I had imagined.

"Right before they took him back for search/processing, the guard allowed my dad a few more moments to step outside and say final goodbyes," he wrote. "I waited until they gave me the rest of his belongings that he couldn't take in with him.

"As I left, holding his blackberry, I thought it was going to be ok," he added.

The younger Fumo promised to send more e-mails but said that he figured that "there won't be much news and to be honest, I'd like to keep it that way. The less abnormal thing I need to report the better."

Fumo's son urged friends and family to write monthly letters, described as "snail mail." Letters from home would be "incredibly uplifting" to his father, "even to tell him that you had the house painted," but he warned not to discuss business.

"He's not allowed to discuss business at all," Fumo's son wrote. "Any business matters that you need to discuss with him should be done through me. I am the temporary 'head of the family.'

"Please do not send 'gifts' of any kind," he added.

"I am in charge of visitation," he wrote. If friends want to visit Fumo in prison, his son advised that they would have to be "prescreened" by the prison, and that there are "strict rules" about the number of visitors per month.

"It's unclear what the screening entails but don't be afraid of it," he wrote. "If you want to visit him and fear a background check, just let me know and we'll try and determine if your situation will preclude you from visiting.

"It may take you up to a few months to get you approved and on the visitation list, which has very little space," he added.

Fumo can have visitors on weekends and federal holidays, and the younger Fumo offered to give visitors tips on accommodations, travel routes and the town of Ashland.

As for getting a call from Fumo, his son warned: "Please understand that he'll have to schedule you in and you will only get a few minutes to chat."

Federal prisoners get 300 minutes of time on the phone per month.

"This is an awful and unfair situation, but we will get through it just fine," Fumo's son wrote. "My main concern is that my dad is safe and stays positive."

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