Prosecutors request resentencing for imprisoned politician

PHILADELPHIA Wed May 25, 2011 6:31pm EDT

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PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Wednesday asked an appeals court to order the resentencing of a once-powerful state senator convicted of fraud and tax evasion, saying the original sentence was too lenient.

Former State Sen. Vincent Fumo was sentenced to 55 months in a minimum-security federal prison after he was convicted in March 2009 of 137 charges of fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors argued that Fumo should be re-sentenced, an unusual move, to up to 27 years in prison, saying U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Buckwalter had been too lenient.

In a brief filed with the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel heard arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said the sentence was "only a fraction of the terms appropriately advised by the sentencing guidelines."

The brief also noted that the sentence had "set off an unprecedented storm of public outrage throughout Pennsylvania."

It said Fumo, elected to the senate in 1978, had influence that "permeated all levels of government in the state" as well as in the city of Philadelphia.

But despite considerable wealth, "he was driven to acquire more and often professed to confidants a philosophy that one should only spend "other people's money" which he referred to as "OPM."

Fumo's lawyers argued in court documents that the sentencing judge committed "no significant procedural error," and noted that the court had ordered Fumo to pay a fine of $411,000 and more than $2.3 million in restitution.

They added that Buckwalter found that Fumo had worked hard for the public, warranting a departure from sentencing guidelines.

The appeals court made no immediate ruling.

(Reporting by Dave Warner; editing by Chris Michaud and Greg McCune)

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