Friday, February 9, 2007
The federal indictment of powerful Pennsylvania state Senator Vincent Fumo on corruption, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice charges has sparked a vigorous response from his lawyer, Richard Sprague. The government unveiled a 139-count, 267-page indictment against Fumo and three aides alleging a range of fraudulent schemes involving alleged abuse of his office and diversion of funds from non-profits. Sprague held a press conference (audio available here) in which he belittled the prosecution as politically motivated by Republicans in Washington, D.C. -- Fumo is a Democrat from Philadelphia -- and described the charges as "full of twists and distortions, venal and salacious entries, deliberate statements out of context -- all for the purposes of having an effective public relations campaign by the prosecutor's office." A Philadelphia Inquirer story (here) notes that a U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman responded to Sprague, stating that the "comments are inaccurate and regrettable and we will present our case in court."
While the case is barely a day old, it is the product of a four-year investigation that has already involved an appeal to the Third Circuit over privilege issues related to a grand jury subpoena to an attorney (United States v. Doe, 429 F.3d 450 (3d Cir. 2005)). Philadelphia has seen its fair share of corruption cases the past two years, with a former Treasurer and City Council member convicted. Its politics can occasionally show some rough edges, much like a Phillies crowd during a losing streak, so don't look for the the case to go away quietly. (ph)