Less than a month after his release from federal prison, former Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Fumo is headed back to court, but this time, it's by his own request.
Lawyers representing Fumo filed a 42-page petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Fumo wants his conviction overturned and he wants his money back -- more than $3 million dollars.
In 2009, a jury convicted Fumo on 137 counts of fraud, tax offenses and obstruction of justice for stealing $4.2 million from the state, the nonprofit Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, and the Independence Seaport Museum.
Originally, Fumo was facing a maximum of 27 years. U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter cut the sentencing guidelines in half after Fumo's attorneys asked for special consideration of his prior civil service and his declining health.
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Fumo was initially sentenced to four years and seven months in prison in 2009. But prosecutors appealed the original sentence and in 2011, an additional six months were added to his sentence and he was ordered to pay $3.8 million in fines and restitution.
Now, Fumo wants it all back.
The petition, filed by criminal appeals attorney Peter Goldberger, seeks to overturn Fumo’s conviction based on a claim that jurors in the case were exposed to prejudicial information against Fumo by way of media reports about evidence that was excluded from the trial and negative publicity.
The petition claims, "In addition to coverage in traditional print and broadcast media, there was widespread coverage by new media, including 'live blogging' direct from the courtroom on the evidence and proceedings, which then appeared on various websites in real time," the petition states. "The defense repeatedly voiced concerns that given the extensive coverage, the jury might be exposed. The district court, however, infrequently instructed the jury regarding exposure to extraneous influences, and refused to question the jury about potential exposure to such influences.”
Fumo is also seeking reimbursement of $3 million of the restitution award and $300,000 in pre-judgment interest against him, stating that the "amount of victim loss is a fact neither alleged in the indictment nor found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt."
Goldberger further contends that the fine violated Fumo’s Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury.
Buckwalter, who has been criticized for being too lenient in Fumo’s sentencing, declined to comment on the filing.
The Supreme Court may determine whether to accept Fumo's case for full review by the end of the year, and if it is taken up for review, a decision would be expected by early next year.