'He Didn't Kill Nobody'
By Richard Carreño
Junto Staff Writer
Philadelphia On the same day that Sumpreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was telling the Senate that judicial decisions should be based on facts, not feelings, US District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter was emoting in his Philadelphia courtroom Tuesday so shamelessly that you'd think he was raging with the hormones of a tween fan of the late King of Pop Michael Jackson. Instead, Buckwalter was feeling the pain of one Vincent J. Fumo, the Vince of Darkness, the 'Yo Vince' ruler of Fumo World, the one-time, all-powerful city-state Senator (SPQR) from the province of southern Philly. If you ddn't blink, I bet you, too, would be have seen that tear drop from the stately judge's eye.
Good job this guy wasn't auditioning for a role on the Supreme Court.
For most Philadelphians, Fumo, convicted of scores of counts of corruption, scandal, and vandal was a disgraced felon. Not to Fumo, of course, who's still voxing foul as a man of the populi. Not, too,to hundreds of letter writers, including Luv-Gov Eddie Rendell and scores of other city-state grandees -- some great, most not so good -- who pleaded, urged, begged, crawled, sucked up, encouraged Buckwalter not to send our Prince Vince up the river for a very long time, say like, oh, 15 to 20 years.
Finally, Bucky agreed -- 55 months. Bang! went the gavel. Next victim.
All in all, Bucky was feeling for Vince. Because of Fumo's medical problems -- an alleged basket case of woes. (Hey, does this guy have medical insurance?) Because of his age, 66. (Gee, he might die in prison). Because Vince was the but of that big, bad, brutish, loutish journal of ill-repute, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Because, well, didn't he do alot for the 'little populi'?
Finally, Judge Feel-Good pronounced, agreeing with one of Vince's seconds in the gallery, 'He didn't kill nobody.'
Funny thing on the way to the judicial forum. Bucky did the right thing. For the wrong reasons.
Fumo's 55-month sentence, including millions in restitution, was a penalty that fit the crime. (Full disclosure: And I'm not saying this because Vince once helped me with a problem I had with Harrisburg. Full disclosure II: I like Vince.)
The fact is white-collar crooks like Fumo are too often over sentenced. In fact, most criminals are over sentenced. Except, of course, many murderers and rapists in Philly who are under sentenced.
Much has been made that Fumo's 55 months is a sentence significantly less than some other recent Philly white-collar political bad guys. Examples: City Treasurer Cory Kemp got 10 years. City Councillor Rick Mariano got 6 1/2 years. (Never mind John Street, who got a free ride).
So why, the questioning goes, should bad-boy Vince get 4 1/2 years, actually, at the end of day, four years (with good behaviour)?
The problem lies in the fact that Kemp, Mariano, and others in the rogue's gallery of Philly felons got too much time.
I know. I know. In our hard-line society, it's the norm to raise the ante. (Ill-conceived, ill-fated mandatory sentences, anyone?) But the real result in this one-tough-cookie environment is that the well connected, well financed, and powerful -- Exhibit A: Vincent J.Fumo -- get the lesser sentences. The schmoes get the bad-ass time.
Oh, yes. Welcome to Fumo World!