Thursday, March 26, 2015
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter has denied a motion that would have granted former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo an early end to his supervised release.
In a motion filed March 21st, Fumo's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, had sought to terminate Fumo's three years of supervised release after some 13 months.
"His punishments have been considerable and he has suffered much," Cogan wrote in his motion. "He is now almost 72 years of age. His health is not good and his financial losses have been considerable."
The judge, however, took a dim view of the request.
"I am nonplussed by such a motion being filed when defendant has not even completed one of the singularly most important conditions of his supervised release -- community service," Buckwalter wrote in a one-page order issued today.
"Two hundred and eighty-five hours out of a mandated five hundred," the judge wrote. "Not even close. To say that this failure is disappointing is putting it mildly."
The former state senator was convicted by a federal jury in March 2009 of 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and filing a false tax return.
Judge Buckwalter originally sentenced Fumo to 55 months in prison and ordered him to pay $2.7 million in restitution. The feds, however, didn't think it was enough and successfully appealed the sentence. Judge Buckwalter then sentenced Fumo to 61 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay nearly $4 million in fines and restitution, which Fumo has paid in full.
On top of his legal problems and financial losses Fumo has dealt with serious health issues.
While in prison Fumo had "underwent extensive heart-bypass surgery," Cogan wrote. After getting out in August 2013, Fumo was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"While undergoing regiments of therapy for his cancer, Fumo nonetheless performed 285 hours of outstanding community service with Sister Mary Scullion's Project HOME," Cogan wrote. He described Project HOME as "a much acclaimed outreach program that provides critical services on behalf of homeless people."
Fumo wrote about his experiences riding with an outreach team headed by Sam Santiago, a former Philadelphia police officer, in an op-ed published last November by his longtime nemesis, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
"From my brief experiences I would estimate that 90 percent of the people on the streets these days want to be there," Fumo wrote. "We go out and try to get them to come inside, but most times they refuse. Sam knows many of them by name. Our job is to keep on them until that day when they decide to come in."
The prosecutors who put Fumo away, however, were predictably hostile to Cogan's request, and suggested that Fumo was shirking his community service duties.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer wrote that Judge Buckwalter had ordered Fumo to finish 500 hours of community service during his first year of parole at the rate of 10 hours per week.
But "Fumo did not maintain that pace," Zauzmer wrote. Fumo's probation officer advised that "Fumo did his community service one day a week, but suspended that effort while receiving medical treatment."
"Now that the treatment has ended, the probation officer informed Fumo that he should perform community service two days a week, but Fumo has ignored this directive," Zauzmer wrote.
In his order, Judge Buckwalter sided with the feds and served notice that failure to comply might have dire consequences.
"More to the point, such a failure to comply with the terms and conditions of supervised release may result in a violation of that supervised release with all the attendant consequences of such a violation," the judge wrote.
In response to the judge's decision, Fumo's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, said it was "one more thing for him [Fumo] to get over."
Ralph Cipriano is writing a book about former state Senator Fumo.