When the judge handed a 55-month sentence to former state senator Vincent Fumo last month for 137 counts of fraud, obstruction and tax evasion, many Philadelphians felt the punishment didn’t fit the crime.
Fumo’s sentence had people across the city looking back at past political power players who wound up behind bars to see how their sentences compared.
Patrick Meehan, who started the investigation of Fumo when he was U.S. Attorney, told Harry Hairston and the NBC10 Investigators that he was among those who made the comparison.
“You have Corey Kemp, who arguably was guilty of less, sentenced to ten years in prison, Rick Mariano, six and a half,” Meehan told Hairston just after Fumo learned his fate in federal prison on July 15. “He’s going to be held accountable and nobody wants to pile on but this is dramatically out of proportion. If I’m Corey Kemp, I’m sitting in jail today and I’m saying, ‘where’s the justice?’”
But that’s not exactly what Kemp had to say. The NBC10 Investigators wrote Kemp asking if he thought his ten year sentence for only 27 counts was fair, compared to Fumo’s much lighter sentence.
“There seems to be a disparity of treatment in regards to the sentence,” Kemp wrote in a letter. “I’m not saying Mr. Fumo should have received more time than I did. I just wish I would have received less time than he received.
Kemp wasn’t the only one who wanted to weigh in. Hairston contacted Rick Mariano in prison, another once influential Philadelphia official who’s now serving more time for lesser counts than Fumo. The former city councilman -- convicted of 18 counts of corruption, fraud and tax charges -- responded to Hairston’s letter around the same time Kemp did, but sang a different tune.
“I was happy for Senator Fumo,” he wrote, claiming that he had been, “praying for him to get a break. It seems that God has touched the judge’s heart.
Mariano cautioned those who are unhappy with the judge’s decision, asking them to remember Matthew 6:14-15 -- a verse from the Bible -- quoting: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
But while Mariano might be able to absolve the former senator of his sins, it may not be so easy for the residents of Philadelphia who are paying the price of Fumo’s crimes.
As one resident from South Philadelphia who lived in Fumo’s district said, people will still be feeling the impact of the former senator’s offenses long after he’s finished serving his 55 months in prison.
“He broke the law,” the man said. “He took a lot of money from hardworking people. He shouldn’t have done that.”