Tears, gasps and disbelief poured from the federal courthouse Tuesday as fallen Pa. State Senator Vince Fumo was sentenced for stealing from his constituents. Fumo was ordered to serve 55 months in prison and pay millions in restitution and fines, but many were shocked by the outcome.
Prosecutors asked for a mandatory prison sentence of at least 10-years. However, U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter felt Fumo's role as a public servant justified less-than half that behind bars. The former senator must surrender on August 31 and begin serving the sentence. He will face three years of supervised release after serving prison time.
"I think people really, honestly quite surprised," former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan said. Meehan cited sentences of other corrupt elected officials were "arguably guilty of less," yet serving more time than Fumo. "The original [sentencing] guidelines were calculated at 22-26 years and a four and a half year sentence just seems remarkably out of kilter with all of it."
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter echoed Meehan's thoughts on the judge's ruling, but said "a simple, yet important message was reinforced today - - those who abuse the trust of the public, especially elected officials, will be caught and punished.”
A teary-eyed Fumo told the judge he "never meant to steal." He will have to pay about $2 million in restitution to several groups including the Pennsylvania State Senate and the Citizen's Alliance, the non-profit organization he founded and stole from.
"I made mistakes in my life. I've lived with this torment for years…maybe I should not have asked my staff to do what they did," said Fumo. He must also must pay a fine of $411,000, according to federal prosecutors.
A jury found Fumo guilty on 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstructing justice and tax violations earlier this year. The sentencing had a big event feel as nearly 300 people packed the federal courthouse in Center City to learn Fumo’s fate.
The big moment came late in the afternoon as Fumo spoke on his own behalf. "I am deeply, deeply sorry," said Fumo. He choked up at points while explaining why he did what he did. Fumo wasn't alone -- some supporters in the crowd also sobbed as he spoke.
Earlier in the day, two docs battled over how Fumo would physically handle prison life. Dr. John Maneti, physician for all northeast U.S. prisons, was the first witness to take the stand regarding how Fumo would be treated medically in prison.
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Fumo has a history of medical problems like heart disease, diabetes, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety that require a slew of medications.
Maneti treated many patients in prison similar to Fumo, he said. But defense expert Dr. Phil Wise claimed Fumo would not do well in prison due to his medication regiment, as well as stress, according to Philly.com's Live Blog.
But, according to Maneti, there is one specialist for every 350 inmates and one doctor for every 1,000, reported Philly.com. Sometimes inmates have better luck finding medical care in prison than in the free world, he added.
In the afternoon session a series of witnesses took the stand on Fumo's behalf including State Sen. Tina Tartaglione, Equality Forum advocate Malcolm Lazin and others.
Last week, Fumo’s lawyers argued that the full sentencing guidelines for 21 to 27 years in prison would essentially be a life sentence for the 66-year-old Fumo. Prosecutors asked for about 10 years and $2 million in restitution as punishment for Fumo's bad deeds.
In Fumoland a.k.a. South Philadelphia, residents were torn over the former state senator's sentence. "He did good for the neighborhood," said Bill Rico. As for the sentencing Ricco felt it was "way too lenient."
"If that was you or me or anybody else, we would have gotten more than five years," said Dan Blank.
But not everyone was so keen on the ruling. "Mr. Fumo was a very good man for South Philadelphia," said Marzelia Miraoshi. "He don't deserve what they did to him."