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Disgraced state sentator: 'I will repay all these (expletive) some day'

| Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011

HARRISBURG -- Vincent Fumo has big plans when he gets out of prison.

The disgraced former state senator wants to write a book about "Vince Fumo, the most effective legislator in America." He wants to return to the state Capitol as a lobbyist, buy an antique tractor for his gentleman's farm near Halifax, purchase a Key West property and exact revenge on those he blames for his downfall.

"I will repay all these (expletive) some day," the Philadelphia Democrat, 68, wrote in an e-mail from a government computer at a federal prison near Ashland, Ky. In other messages, Fumo, once one of the most powerful men in Pennsylvania, compares himself to Christ and denounces the "dumb" jury and his "so-called crimes."

"There were no victims," he wrote.

Prosecutors want to use the e-mails -- 12,068 pages covering just April through mid-October -- to delay Fumo's post-prison plans.

In July 2009, Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter sentenced Fumo to 55 months in prison for his convictions of 137 counts of fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice for defrauding state taxpayers, a nonprofit he created and a seaport museum of $4 million.

On Wednesday, prosecutors will try to convince Buckwalter to impose a longer term, arguing the e-mails show Fumo is "wholly unrepentant" and intent on exacting vengeance.

Fumo's attorney Dennis Cogan could not be reached Friday. His lawyers argue that his good works and public service should carry weight at the hearing on a new sentence.

The 55-month sentence sparked anger and outrage by taxpayers across Pennsylvania. Prosecutors appealed the sentence. In August, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Buckwalter to sentence Fumo again.

"Whatever the judge says about whether he's taking these e-mails into account or not, he's seen the prosecution's submissions and he knows what Fumo has been saying, and he knows what Fumo has been ranting," said John Burkoff, who teaches criminal law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

"Judge Buckwalter is human," Burkoff said. "How can he not factor into any new sentence Fumo's apparent total lack of repentance and understanding of the gravity of his offenses• These e-mails are bound to cost the ex-senator greatly."

The U.S. Attorney's Office is seeking at least a 15-year sentence. Fumo has served 26 months.

"I do feel Christ-like in the injustices I have suffered throughout this whole nightmare," he wrote.

Prisoners using the Department of Justice's e-mail system see repeated warnings that authorities can monitor their communications. Even communications between prisoners and their lawyer are not privileged.

Fumo's attorneys and his fiancee, Carolyn Zinni, repeatedly asked him to stop saying so much in e-mails.

Zinni wrote to Fumo: "SHH! No calling anyone out. Be a good boy, OK?"

"I feel like Caesar and Christ all tied into one with Brutus and Judas both stabbing me in the back," Fumo wrote.

He called the jury that convicted him "dumb, corrupt and prejudiced." In another e-mail, he compared himself to Jews in concentration camps, prisoners at Guantanamo and the Mubarak family on trial in Egypt.

America, Fumo says, has become "just another (expletive)-up banana republic."

Former aides, former friends, former lawyers -- and especially prosecutors -- do not his escape his wrath. About the only person he didn't blast is the judge, prosecutors noted.

In one e-mail, Fumo claimed that if a Democrat won the 2004 presidential race he had a deal that would allow him to name the next U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and end the federal investigation of his conduct. Fumo didn't say with whom he made the deal.

As for becoming a lobbyist, prosecutors say Fumo "plans to return to the scene of the crime (Harrisburg)" and "foist his brand of legislative conduct on a new generation of legislators."

As a senator, Fumo used taxpayers' money, as well as the nonprofit Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, to provide him with staffers and resources to serve his whims, prosecutors say. Senate aides ran errands and did campaign work, including fundraising. A $31,000-per-year Senate aide worked as Fumo's housekeeper. Other staffers worked on his farm. They paid his personal bills. They managed his five residences.

Fumo's lawyers say "his character, lifetime of public service, advanced age and poor health each support the conclusion that a 55-month sentence is appropriate in this case."

Although Fumo called the jury stupid, his e-mails suggest "a new twist on the old saw that people in glass houses should not throw stones," Burkoff said. "People in prison who are up for re-sentencing really should not be sending stupid e-mails."

Burkoff predicts more time for Fumo.

"Look, Judge Buckwalter already got his wrist slapped by the 3rd Circuit for handing out too lenient a sentence," Burkoff said. "Judges really don't like being called, in essence, soft on crime. So there's very little question but that Fumo will get hit a lot harder this time."

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