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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a lengthy opinion on Tuesday criticizing a federal district judge’s numerous procedural errors in sentencing power-drunk, former Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Fumo for using state and non-profit funds to clean his mansion, charter yachts, and spy on ex-girlfriends and political enemies. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing in the case.
How outrageous was Fumo’s 55-month sentence? So bad that even then-Governor Ed Rendell, who wrote a letter asking for leniency in Fumo’s case, recommended that prosecutors pursue a sentence appeal.
A unanimous jury convicted Fumo in 2009 on 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice, and tax violations for using state employees and consultants for political and personal purposes. In the process, Fumo defrauded the state and two non-profit groups of $3.5 million.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter ordered Fumo to serve only 55 months, a far cry from the 21-year sentence calculation under federal advisory guidelines.
At a sentence appeal hearing in May, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals characterized the light sentence as a fundamental error, and noted that Buckwalter had not offered an explanation of the process he used to determine the 55-month sentence, reports Philly.com.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that Buckwalter had abused his discretion in ignoring almost $2 million in losses in his fraud calculation. The court also criticized Buckwalter for refusing to apply 2-level sentencing enhancements for charitable misrepresentation, sophisticated means, and obstruction of justice for perjury at trial.
While the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ordered new sentencing in the Fumo case, there is no guarantee that Fumo will receive the 15-year minimum that the prosecution is pushing. Barring an appeal from Fumo, the matter will return to Buckwalter, who praised Vincent Fumo during the first sentencing hearing for his "extraordinary" public service. It is possible that Buckwalter could impose the same 55-month sentence, but offer a detailed explanation regarding his reasoning.