PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ordered a new sentencing hearing for convicted former Pennsylvania state senator Vince Fumo, who is currently serving a 55-month sentence for a fraud that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
The prosecution had argued that Judge Ronald Buckwalter made numerous procedural errors, and in a 2-1 decision a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
According to the appeals court, Judge Buckwalter miscalculated loss amounts, and the court abused its discretion in rulings concerning sentencing “enhancements” sought by the prosecution (see related story) for Fumo and Ruth Arnao, Fumo’s convicted co-conspirator.
The appeals court also ruled that some of the lower court judge’s decisions could call into question the fairness of the proceedings.
Federal prosecutor John Pease says the appeals court ruling should greatly increase the sentencing guideline range originally determined by Judge Buckwalter.
“It’s likely that it would put us at either a level 37, which would be 210-262 months, or potentially a level 38, which would be 235-293 months. It would range in the neighborhood of 18 years or more,” Pease told KYW Newsradio.
But defense attorney Peter Goldberger, who says Fumo could appeal the latest ruling, argues the new sentence should be no longer than the one Fumo is now serving, despite any court errors.
A jury in 2009 convicted Fumo and Arnao of defrauding the state senate, the Independence Seaport Museum, and a South Philadelphia nonprofit of millions of dollars.
Fumo is currently incarcerated at a federal prison in Kentucky. The resentencing process is expected to take months, if not longer; Fumo’s attorneys could appeal the latest decision to the full Third Circuit Court or to the US Supreme Court.
Reported by Tony Hanson, KYW Newsradio 1060