John Baer: Feds took Fumo down, but now they're piling on

Former state senator Vince Fumo, trim and clean-shaven, arrives at the Ashland, Ky., federal correctional facility on Sept. 1, 2009, thinking he'd be free in 4 years.
Former state senator Vince Fumo, trim and clean-shaven, arrives at the Ashland, Ky., federal correctional facility on Sept. 1, 2009, thinking he'd be free in 4 years. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 28, 2011

SO, CONVICTED imprisoned former Philly power pol Vince Fumo is to be resentenced because the feds who won a corruption case against him in 2009 believe his 4 1/2-year jail term should, at least, be tripled.

And the 68-year Fumo - who, according to initial reports, was dieting, exercising, teaching, reading and doing well as a guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Ashland, Ky. - now is described as depressed.

I guess.

His lawyer, Dennis Cogan, confirms The Vince is overwrought, overweight, with long hair and a beard. No doubt prospects of spending the rest of one's life locked up after expecting freedom in roughly two years quickly alters one's outlook.

Fumo, we are told, suffers multiple ailments, including heart disease.

It'll be interesting to see if he shows up for resentencing Nov. 9 fit, shaved and shorn, or whether he shows up in the state he's reportedly in now.

If the latter, many will say it's all just part of Fumo's act.

Same with the unfolding issue of getting him from Ashland to Philly. U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter denied a request that Fumo be present via close-circuit TV; he wants to see him face-to-face.

The prison transport system, a long, circuitous, shackled journey, is one option. But Cogan's trying to get the U.S. Marshal's Service to allow privately funded transport. He says the service is "doing an assessment" on that issue now.

If Cogan is successful, expect public outcries of kid-gloved treatment. Powerful people who fall from grace are always favorite targets.

Fumo was found guilty of 137 counts related to directing millions of tax dollars to basically anything he wanted, including spying on former girlfriends and living off what he referred to as "OPM," other people's money.

His is a classic case of the corruptive influence of power, the consequences of which he long avoided simply by being smart. Until, that is, after 30 years, when he got too smart and thought he was untouchable.

His career's been reported widely, for good and ill, for service to the city, for disservice to the public.

Let me be plain. The government case against him was strong. What he did that put him in prison was wrong.

But the government had its shot, won its case and a federal judge made a decision. Was it too lenient? Maybe so.

It just strikes me that going back now is not unlike a winning team using replay after a game to show missed calls that would have meant a larger margin of victory.

It's over. Move on. Surely there are other games to play.

And, yes, I know former Philly Treasurer Corey Kemp got 10 years for taking gifts. And he's black and Fumo's white and plenty think Fumo's sentence was fixed.

I also know Fumo's mentor and South Philly predecessor in the Senate, the late Buddy Cianfrani, served 27 months of a five-year term for racketeering and mail fraud (before parole for federal prisoners ended in the late 1980s).

But comparing cases gets dicey. No two are really alike.

In this case, Judge Buckwalter can extend the sentence or maintain it with further explanation. Either way, his decision can be appealed. So this could go on for years.

As to justice? Don't hold your breath. As iconic American lawyer Clarence Darrow once said, "There is no such thing as justice, in or out of court."

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