"It's not murder. It's not robbery," said U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter before sentencing former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo to 55 months in prison on his 137-count corruption conviction.
The veteran judge's sentence and the rationale behind it have drawn what prosecutors describe as "an unprecedented torrent of public criticism" since Tuesday.
Fumo, 66, who prosecutors said defrauded his victims of $4.2 million, was not among the critics. While 55 months in prison is no vacation, the sentence was far less than the maximum 27 years initially recommended by federal probation officers based on sentencing guidelines, far less than even Buckwalter's subsequent guideline recalculation of 11 to 14 years.
In courtrooms throughout the region, people who helped themselves to other people's money, goods, or services heard their fates in recent days. And most did so with a lot less fanfare than Fumo. Their punishments ranged from probation to 51 months in jail.
On Wednesday in Trenton, a New Jersey airport baggage screener who stole between $200,000 and $400,000 in electronics and jewelry from passenger luggage was sentenced to 37 months in prison.
Pythias Brown, 47, of Maplewood, a former Transportation Security Administration employee at Newark Liberty International Airport, admitted stealing the items between September 2007 and October.
U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan ordered Brown to pay $8,285 in restitution and to surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons by Sept. 1, ignoring his request to extend that date to celebrate his first wedding anniversary.
Among Brown's victims were cameramen from CNN and HBO. Brown was busted when a CNN cameraman noticed the expensive camera equipment for sale on eBay, listed under an account authorities traced to Brown.
Brown had no criminal history, Michael Drewniak, a Justice Department spokesman, said. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft from a commercial interstate carrier, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
In a Montgomery County courtroom last week, Jason Langheim asked for - and got - a sentencing break in a $63,000 fraud case from the county's president judge.
Langheim, 24, had taken a credit card that employer J.P. Mascaro, the waste-hauling company, had given him to buy property-maintenance supplies at Home Depot and used it on Atlantic City sprees.
During about six months in 2007, Langheim used the card to finance gambling, liquor purchases, and limousine rides, according to court testimony.
But Langheim, of Eagleville, became contrite soon after investigators confronted him and repaid $19,000 before his July 10 sentencing. It helped earn him a sentence of two months in jail and five years' probation, shorter than prosecutors wanted.
Then, in front of Common Pleas Court President Judge Richard J. Hodgson, Langheim begged for forgiveness.
"My number-one goal in life is to pay this money back to the Mascaros," Langheim told the judge, "and eventually, hopefully, to at least be able for them to acknowledge me when they see me on the street."
Langheim will begin the sentence immediately after finishing a three-day jail term for drunken driving, which begins Aug. 7.
Consider the case of Anthony Jones, whose crime was also motivated by greed - for deep-water crustaceans rather than cash or political power.
On July 10, Jones, of Atlantic City - no stranger to the legal system - was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio to four years in state prison for stealing 91 frozen lobster tails from Bally's Atlantic City casino.
Jones, 39, walked into the kitchen of a casino restaurant in February and began stuffing lobsters from the storage freezer into his jacket and backpack, prosecutors said.
Casino security noticed his bulky clothing and caught him as he tried to walk out. The casino valued the lobsters at $1,275.
With no criminal record, Jones could have gotten off with a year's probation, Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton said. But his extensive rap sheet, which included 21 adult arrests, put his minimum sentencing guidelines at three years.
Unlike Fumo, there was no parade of apologists at Jones' sentencing, she added. Only his public defender spoke.
In Bucks County, two New York men were placed on probation Wednesday for participating in an insurance scam that prosecutors said had cost insurance companies more than $500,000.
Otuechere Obioma, 28, of Brooklyn, received three years' probation after pleading guilty to insurance fraud, said his lawyer, Craig Penglase of Doylestown.
Serge Jeanty, 37, of Jamaica, N.Y., received three years' probation and 50 hours of community service from Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley after pleading guilty to charges including insurance fraud and theft, said Senior Deputy Attorney General Robert LaBar.
Obioma was among hundreds of New York residents who received reduced Pennsylvania insurance rates between January 2005 and September 2006 using false Pennsylvania addresses.
Jeanty was more involved, LaBar said, serving as a chauffeur between Pennsylvania and New York for one of the principals in the scam, and helping to set up a Bucks County post office box that was used as one of the phony addresses.
Obioma did not have to pay restitution, Penglase said, because no claims were filed on the policies he fraudulently arranged.
As Fumo was being sentenced before a capacity crowd, in another courtroom in Philadelphia confessed East Germantown bank robber William E. Glass, 67, was drawing a prison term of 51 months from U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin.
And he was ordered to repay the $1,090 he admitted stealing Dec. 9 from the Philadelphia Federal Credit Union branch on the Temple University campus in North Philadelphia.
Unlike Fumo, who made an emotional 20-minute speech to Buckwalter before sentencing, Glass went to prison without a word - emblematic of a life that appears to have been as tough as Fumo's was comfortable.
The Dec. 9 bank robbery was the only one, according to court records, in which Glass got money. The teller, who said she had been robbed before, said she was as stunned by Glass' age as by the threat in his demand note that he had a gun.
"I would have thought that by that age you know right from wrong," the teller told investigators. "I guess not."