On the bench, Fumo's BFF: Buckwalter
The feds filed too many charges against ex-state Sen. Vincent Fumo, his good works in public and private life mitigated his crimes, and it wasn't as if he were charged with taking bribes or pocketing state money.
The viewpoint of Fumo's lawyer, perhaps• Nope, that was part of the reasoning by U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter, who added a mere six more months to Fumo's 55-month sentence. Buckwalter had been ordered to resentence Fumo because his first sentence in 2009 was too lenient.
On the redo, Buckwalter gave Fumo, a Philadelphia Democrat, a pass again.
Never mind that Fumo's fraud totaled $4 million. A jury convicted him of 137 corruption charges in 2009. He used state taxpayers' money and a nonprofit's money as if it were his own. Senate staffers did his personal and political chores. State-paid employees worked on his farm; they balanced his checkbooks. A taxpayer-paid private detective snooped on his personal and political enemies. Political polls were paid for by the taxpayers.
But hey, he wasn't putting money in his own pocket.
Call Buckwalter's resentence outrageous, incomprehensible or plain rotten. Take your pick.
It was clear to me that this quirky 74-year-old senior judge should no longer be hearing cases in federal court.
His kid-glove handling of Fumo was unconscionable.
It irked Buckwalter that prosecutors used Fumo's e-mails, sent from a federal prison account, to show he wanted to exact revenge on his enemies when released. His e-mails also showed he had no remorse. "There were no victims," Fumo wrote. Buckwalter virtually scolded assistant U.S. attorneys for using the e-mails.
Buckwalter also felt sorry for all of Fumo's ailments, from diabetes to depression. He did reluctantly agree that Fumo had those ailments when he committed the crimes.
This notion that the multimillion-dollar fraud on taxpayers wasn't important because it wasn't bribery or theft is ludicrous.
Of course, it was theft. Just as former House Speaker John Perzel's use of $10 million for computer programs and equipment to help Republicans win elections was theft. So was former House Minority Leader Mike Veon's use of $1.8 million in bonuses to House Democrat staffers who worked on campaigns.
Federal prosecutors and agents who at times visited the courtroom during Buckwalter's two-day defense of his slap on the wrist varyingly looked perplexed and saddened by what transpired.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zausmer put the best spin possible on it in talking to reporters later. Yes, it was a disappointment. But in the big picture, the federal government had removed Fumo from office and sent him to prison.
Still, Buckwalter seemed sensitive to the widespread public criticism of his first sentence. The judge asked one witness whether he had heard anything about the court's integrity being challenged and essentially got a "no."
I heard a lot of that in 2009. But watching Buckwalter in person, I don't believe that was anything untoward. He seems like a decent man. He just had a blind spot on this case. Call it stubbornness, a character flaw, a distorted perception of the facts.
Just a judge way past his prime.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: After L.A., NFL should tread carefully
- Acme man’s ephemeral sculptures appear to defy laws of physics
- Oncologists wary of scaled-back guidelines in cancer screenings
- Early success in White House race a pleasant surprise for Carson
- Kennywood fanatic, 82, rides Jack Rabbit 95 times in a row
- Starter Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates to series sweep of Mets
- Cochran repair center planned in Harrison
- Neighbor arrested after McKeesport house fire, authorities say
- A family’s flag flies again in Mt. Pleasant
- Memorial Day service in National Cemetery of the Alleghenies still growing
- Posthumous election wins have happened in Western Pa., nation