Feds: Convicted Pa. pol's emails hint at revenge

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2011 7:05 PM
Feds: Convicted Pa. pol's emails hint at revenge

A former Pennsylvania senator convicted of defrauding the state Senate and two nonprofits of more than $2 million has written what prosecutors call "an explosive trove" of prison emails suggesting he will seek revenge, become a lobbyist and resume a lavish lifestyle.

Philadelphia Democrat Vincent Fumo is serving a 4 1/2-year prison term. But he could get more time at a Nov. 9 hearing after an appeals court threw out his below-guideline sentence.

In the emails, the long-time state powerbroker calls his 2009 conviction "a travesty of justice." He talks of how he misses his jet but gets to keep his boats.

"I never hurt anyone in my life. There were no victims. But because of who I was and the jealousies that swirl around my success and power, I was targeted," Fumo, 68, wrote this year.

Prosecutors say in a memo filed Friday the emails show Fumo is itching to exact revenge on his enemies. They'll again seek a sentence that falls at least within the guideline range of about 17 to 22 years.

Fumo's lawyers want U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter to hand down the same 55-month sentence, but explain his reasoning to the appeals court. Buckwalter had praised Fumo for his good works at the first sentencing. Fumo had spent 30 years in the state Senate, controlling the powerful appropriations committee at times and crafting a 2004 law that legalized slot-machine gambling in Pennsylvania. He also beat back two indictments early in his career.

The new sentencing hearing promises to be yet another fierce showdown in the sprawling corruption case, which spawned a three-month trial in which the colorful Fumo _ a lawyer, banker, electrician and self-proclaimed Mensa member _ spent days on the witness stand. The jury convicted him of all 137 counts.

Prosecutors were visibly stunned when Buckwalter, without clearly stating his legal reasoning, handed down a 55-month sentence in July 2009. A low-level co-defendant who pleaded early in the case and cooperated got 30 months.

Fumo is also working with a local writer on a book about his life, tentatively called "The Senator," according to his emails. One of several working subtitles is: "Vince Fumo, the most effective legislator in America and how he was undone by a bankrupt newspaper and an overzealous prosecution." The newspaper in question is The Philadelphia Inquirer, which unearthed some of Fumo's financial fraud.

Fumo and his son would "lend" $100,000 to a corporation headed by his fiancee, which would then pay the writer, former Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriani, according to prosecutors, who cited preliminary discussions in the emails.

As for revenge fantasies, Fumo writes of an "Et Tu Brute" list that includes his original defense lawyer, veteran litigator Richard Sprague, a one-time father figure who testified for the government on rebuttal.

Fumo still hopes to exert influence on politically appointed boards, vowing to get a lawyer he had positioned on a regional transit board ousted, because the lawyer crossed him during the trial.

Fumo's defense lawyers and fiancee repeatedly warn him that prison emails are subject to monitoring, and remind him not to mention certain topics.

"Be a good boy. Ok?" fiancee Carolyn Zinni writes him. "I want you home!!!! do u get that??"

Fumo seems to pay little heed.

In one email, he rails against his sentence for crimes that prosecutors said involved overpaying Senate and nonprofit staffers who carried out personal and political errands for him around the clock, stealing money from Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, a South Philadelphia nonprofit run by his aides, and sailing on a borrowed museum yacht.

"Did I deserve all of the punishment I have so far endured? 55 months in prison, ... $2.4 million 6 in fines and restitution, $3 million in legal fees, loss of my civil rights to ever possess a gun again, ... getting a new passport with the Scarlet Letter F (felon) emblazoned on it, the loss of the pension I worked 35 years for, etc. etc., ... because I sent (an aide) for my laundry and got some tools from CABN (Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods) and a few boat rides from the museum! How is that Justice?"

Defense lawyers, in a recent sentencing memo, said Fumo despite his declining health has helped tutor inmates in prison, just as he regularly helped all manner of supplicants throughout his life.

"Day or night, home or away, vacation or holiday, Fumo could always be counted upon to help," they wrote.