February 9, 2007
A War of Words in Philly
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)
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Just to provide you some inside baseball: Sprague, a former Philly DA, is one of the most respected and influential lawyers in the area. Interestingly, he's well-known for *not* giving press conferences, even on very high profile cases. If he's on the warpath, he's got something to back it up. This case should be very interesting to watch.
Posted by: Max | Feb 10, 2007 7:38:33 PM