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Trials & Litigation

3rd Circuit Nixes 55-Month Term for Former Pa. Lawmaker Fumo, Tells Sentencing Judge to Try Again

Posted Aug 23, 2011 3:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Nixing a 55-month fraud sentence for a powerful former Pennsylvania senator and attorney that sparked public outrage, an appeals court today found a federal district judge had abused his discretion and told him to resentence Vincent Fumo.

However, Judge Ronald Buckwalter isn't required by the decision of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to give the 68-year-old Fumo more time; he must simply explain the reasoning behind his sentence, Fumo's lawyer, Peter Goldberger, told the Associated Press.

Prosecutors contend federal sentencing guidelines call for a 27-year term. At one point, Fumo reportedly could have taken a plea and gotten a five-year term. He was convicted by a jury of 137 counts in a fraud, obstruction of justice and tax evasion case.

Much of the case revolved around Fumo's use of highly paid government staffers to do campaign and personal work for him during his 30-year career as a lawmaker. This work included driving his daughter to school, renovating and redeveloping a farm he purchased near the state capital and driving two vehicles filled with luggage between Philadelphia and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., for an annual vacation.

A nonprofit Fumo helped found was run by a state senate employee on his staff and illegally provided him and his family and staff with valuable benefits, the appeals court recounted in its opinion (PDF) today. For example, the nonprofit spent nearly $400,000 to purchase and maintain vehicles for Fumo and those close to him.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Reuters also have stories.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Testimony: Former Pa. Senator Funneled Work to Law Firms"

ABAJournal.com: "3rd Circuit Tells Prosecutors to Cut Brief After ‘Moby-Dick’ Objection"

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