Former state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo was sentenced to 55 months today for his federal corruption conviction.
Fumo, 66, a once-powerful Democrat, received the sentence from U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, who presided over the five-month trial that ended in March with Fumo's conviction on all 137 counts against him.
Fumo was also fined $411,000 and ordered to pay nearly $1.3 million restitution to the Senate, $676,000 to Citizens Alliance. He must report to jail on or before August 31.
Just before he was sentenced, Fumo spoke for about 15 minutes.
"It's an embarrassment to stand here under these circumstances. All I can say your honor is I've done my best, given of myself, the things I did wrong, I never at the time thought they were."
Towards the end of his statement Fumo said, "Judge, I apologize that I put you through this, not just the trial. I had to make tough decisions in my life and I respect you. I can only ask for mercy and compassion. I tried to do the best job I did. I think I did a good job, and I did give back."
Outside the federal courthouse after court proceedings, Acting United States Attorney Michael Levy said the sentence "is a disappointment to the government."
Levy said that while the prosecution respects the judge, "we do not find the sentence was appropriate for the crimes that were committed."
So many spectators turned out for today's hearing, Buckwalter had it moved from his 14th floor courtroom to the ceremonial courtroom on the ground floor of the federal courthouse overlooking Independence Mall.
Reached for comment after sentence, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady said Buckwalter recognized Fumo's accomplishments.
"He did a lot with his life, and the judge took into consideration what he did for the little people, and a lot of people," Brady said. "He admitted his mistakes, he knew he made mistakes, and he had to pay for them."
Regarding Fumo's abilities and the prospect that he may have time to contribute when he gets out of prison, Brady said: "I'll give you this much – if he was in the Senate, we'd have a budget by now."
Philadelphia City Council President Anna C. Verna, in a prepared, e-mailed statement, said:
"My first reaction is a purely human one. My heart goes out to Senator Fumo, his family and fianceé as they all begin what will surely be a very difficult time. I wish them the best. Representing many of the same constituents, I dealt often with the Senator and his staff. I cannot think of a more effective advocate for so many worthwhile projects. Many of our citizens have benefitted greatly from his efforts. This is what I remember at this time. I leave the judgment to others."
In South Philadelphia this evening, Ed Novak, who was seated with his wife, Marilyn, on the steps of their Wharton Street home, said of Buckwalter's 55 month sentence for Fumo: "I knew he was never going to jail for long. He did a lot for the people in South Philly."
Marilyn Novak added, "I'm not shocked. He knows a lot of people and has alot of influence."
A jury of 10 women and two men found Fumo guilty of defrauding the state Senate and two nonprofits, tax violations and obstructing the FBI investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys John J. Pease and Robert A. Zauzmer had asked Buckwalter to impose a prison sentence of more than 15 years, while defense lawyers sought a sentence substantially shorter than the 11 to 14 years that could be imposed under the sentencing guidelines calculated by the judge.
They also asked the judge to fashion a sentence that would not be tantamount to death for Fumo, who they said has a shortened life expectancy because he suffers from heart problems, diabetes and other medical issues.
A lengthy prison term, they said, would in all likelihood mean that Fumo would die in prison.
Before today's sentencing, John Menenti, a Bureau of Prison's physician, challenged that assertion and suggested that prison would be a less stressful environment than the outside world of deadlines and cell phones.
Contact staff writer Emilie Lounsberry at 215-854-4828 or at email@example.com.