Six years after beginning a computer chess game against Vince Fumo, the feds beat Senator Mensa by outsmarting him.
The prince of darkness/electronic media was dethroned for trying to scrub his moves from BlackBerrys and laptops. The gadget guru who used public money to fund private passions learned the hard way that "delete" is only a state of mind.
"E-mail," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease reminded after the verdict, "never goes away."
If technology played an integral role in Fumo's dramatic 137-count federal corruption conviction, it also offered a brief hint of relief.
Yesterday morning, the courthouse was aflutter over news that a juror in the five-month trial had posted insights on the social-media Web sites Facebook and Twitter.
A closed-door hearing commenced, with defense attorneys arguing for a mistrial or, at least, to replace the blabbing juror with a tighter-lipped alternate.
The juror, 35-year-old Collegeville benefits coordinator Eric Wuest, was spared because he seemed to prove the theory that most blogs have but one reader.
Wuest admitted he had few online friends or followers. And the breathless posts - "can't believe tomorrow may actually be the end !!!!" - were hardly revealing.
"That's what you'll see from 99 percent of my postings," Wuest said, sounding nervous and upset in a recording of the hearing. "Everything is so bland."
Bland? Nothing about Fumo World was bland.
Personally, I loved how the most powerful Democrat in Pennsylvania inadvertently used e-mail to engineer his own downfall - smiley faces and all.
The boss from hell harangued his staff electronically at all hours.
"Can someone fix this [obscenity] thing," Fumo wrote in a profanity-laced e-mail to a Senate staffer working unpaid overtime as a slave.
"Now everytime I turn the system ON, the amplifier does not go on and the TV reads NO SIGNAL until I use the TV remote and go to Video 6. In addition the Left speaker in the top is "crackling" constantly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE GET THIS FIXED NOW!!!!!"
Fumo used e-mail to direct illegal activities and to cover them up.
Leonard Luchko, a computer expert on Fumo's Senate staff who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, spent months running sophisticated programs to purge e-mail. Naturally, following Fumo's lead, Luchko talked about his task via e-mail.
"The FBI probe into the Senator has really set him off," Luchko wrote in a 2004 note. (Luchko was successful in trashing thousands of incriminating exchanges but, lucky for the feds, some members of the inner circle ignored orders and saved their Fumograms.)
Fumo even joked - via e-mail, of course - that his e-mail prowess had been enhanced by the scrutiny.
"For some reason it is working much better now! ???" Fumo wrote. "Maybe the Feds have finished setting up their taps! :-)"
Even before the verdict was rendered, Fumo's lawyers hinted that they'd use juror Wuest's ill-advised Internet activity as grounds for an appeal.
"We believe the jury is tainted," attorney Peter Goldberger told me.
Good luck convincing an appellate panel, said Anne Reed, a Milwaukee trial lawyer and jury consultant whose blog Deliberations (http://jurylaw.typepad.com) helped educate Fumo's lawyers about the new lingo.
"It sounded like he jumped the gun," Reed told me by phone after the verdict, "but he didn't tweet any substantive deliberations."
The sideshow provided some comic relief, as Goldberger acknowledged drafting the defense motion with the help of his 18- and 22-year-old offspring.
"Everything I know," he told me, "I learned from my daughters."
I suppose he could have consulted his client, but when it comes to high-tech tricks, Fumo is the last guy anyone should ask.