It’s been awhile since I wrote about Vince Fumo, former Pennsylvania State Senator, representing Philadelphia, and now a resident of the federal prison camp in Ashland, Kentucky. In 2009, he was convicted of 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy, tax offenses and obstruction of justice. His crimes cost taxpayers and nonprofit organizations $4 million. Yet he received a sentence of only 55 months, which many, including me, considered to be a mere slap on the wrist.
Federal prosecutors were so outraged at the leniency of Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter’s sentence that they actually appealed it. The feds won. The appellate court found that Buckwalter had erred, and on Wednesday, Fumo will be in court for a new sentencing hearing. Fumo, therefore, is back in the news.
Up close and personal
Vincent J. Fumo was, for many years, the most powerful politician in Philadelphia, and then he was hauled into court. For journalists, this story is a gold mine. Because Fumo is a public figure, and because court proceedings are public records, just about anything can be written about him without fear of defamation lawsuits. And, because so many people have axes to grind about Fumo, they’re willing to talk.
Philadelphia Magazine produced three absolutely fascinating articles about this guy. They provide an in-depth look at how a sociopathic megalomaniac views the world and maneuvers to accomplish his self-serving agenda—“balls and brains, loyalty and leverage.” The articles also describe the dynamics between Fumo and the people around him, especially when there is no more loyalty and leverage.
Power: Fumo, after the fall
The most powerful politician in Philadelphia is heading to jail. In an exclusive interview, Vince Fumo talks about the agony of his trial, and why he still doesn’t know what he did that was so wrong (August 2009)
For 30 years, as Vince Fumo ruled Philadelphia politics, we knew how he operated: You were either on his side or he’d try to destroy you. The behind-the-scenes run-up to his federal trial this month reveals something new: His family works in exactly the same way (September 2008)
After years as the closest of friends, two of Philadelphia’s most brilliant and powerful men, Dick Sprague and Vince Fumo, have turned bitter enemies. A tale of influence, money, accusations of betrayal — and the impact their shattered relationship is having on the rest of us (June 2008)
In his own words
As I said, Vince Fumo is in the news again because federal prosecutors have won a resentencing hearing. Last week prosecutors released an 86-page court filing to prove that Fumo was “unchanged, convinced that he committed no crime, wholly unrepentant, virulently hostile towards the prosecutors and all other law enforcement officials.”
And how do they know this? They read Fumo’s emails.
Yes, Club Fed in Kentucky allows inmates access to email. And despite the fact Fumo knows his emails are not private, he has sent 12,068 pages, many of them complaining that he did nothing wrong, no one was hurt, and everyone who contributed to putting him behind bars was dumb, stupid and corrupt.
Well, it seems that Fumo himself was dumb and stupid as well as corrupt, because he kept sending the email tirades, even after his lawyers and fiancée asked him to stop.
Read The sorrow and self-pity: Fumo lashes out in e-mails from prison, on Philly.com.
The entire government filing is also entertaining reading. You can find a link to it on this story:
Feds say Fumo lying and denying his way through too-short prison term, on Philadelphia.cbslocal.com.
Here is one of Fumo’s emails that prosecutors included in their brief:
I have totally lost faith in the system. How could I have any confidence in it considering of where I am for what I am alleged to have done! Even with the Judge dong to right thing, did I deserve all of the punishment I have so far endured? 55 months in prison, denial of the RDAP, $2.4 million in fines and restitution, $3 million in legal fees, loss of my civil rights to ever posses a gun again, being thrown out of every big bank in the country, labeled as a Felon for the rest of my life, getting a new passport with the Scarlet Letter F emblazoned on it, the loss of the pension I worked 35 years for, etc. etc. WTF, because I sent David for my laundry and got some tools from CABN [Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods] and a few boat rides from the museum! How is that Justice by any means? Getting found guilty by a jury that was dumb, corrupt and prejudiced? Being hounded forever by evil prosecutors who run amok without any restraint! Then to have the 3rd Circuit treat our appeal as they seem to have. That is all the “system” and it is corrupt and unjust by its very existence. . . . . My so called crime grew exponentially throughout the trial. I was only indicted with a loss figure of $2,000,000 and that was inflated for sensationalism. By the time they were done with their bullshit charts and extrapolations, it grew to over $5,000,000. Meanwhile I never got a dime. So if you look at that I should be in prison for 20 years PLUS!!!
Can you say, “blames others”? Or how about, “pity play”?
Scope of the problem
So why should we care about Vince Fumo? Most of us have our hands full with the sociopaths in our own lives—the devastation they have wrought, and how we’re going to recover. This is, of course, appropriate, because our first obligation is to ourselves.
But we all need to remember that the core of the sociopathic personality is power, control and dominance, and many sociopaths dominate their ways into positions of incredible power. They pass laws so they and their friends get what they want. They bleed businesses, industries, and entire economies. When these exploiters are calling the shots, it can get very bad for the rest of us.
We need to know that exploiters who operate on a grand scale are out there. And whenever we have opportunities to block them, in whatever small way, we need to do it. Let’s not feed the beasts.