Caution – This May Make You Sick

Caution – this may make you sick to your stomach. Hopefully, it will also make you mad enough to say this kind of B.S. isn’t going to continue. I think it would make a great movie.

Here’s the plot.

We start with a state senator who has just been convicted by a jury of 137 counts of corruption, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. Oh, and let’s also have him loot the taxpayers of a few more million dollars worth of equipment, trips, cars and other items for his personal use. And, just to make him really bad, we’ll have him take hundreds of thousands of dollars more from other organizations while boasting about how he wines and dines on “other people’s money.” We’ll call him Vince – Vince Fumo and we’ll have him represent the people of South Philadelphia, Pa.

We’ll open the scene a few days before sentencing. Federal sentencing guidelines call for between 21 and 27 years in prison. We’ll have a U.S. District Judge (let’s call him Ronald Buckwalter) decide the sentence. The jury who convicted him of all 137 felony counts anxiously awaits sentencing as do the state’s citizens.

But wait, what’s this? Rumor has it that hundreds of powerful politicians and friends are asking the judge to be lenient. The state’s largest newspaper writes an editorial decrying the fact that no less than the governor of the state has written the judge seeking mercy. The governor (let’s name him Ed Rendell) tells the judge that the disgraced felon “did a tremendous amount of good for the best of reasons.”

Now we bring in the words of a few thousands citizens who laughingly respond, “Yeah, to line his pockets with millions!”

But, let’s not stop with the governor. Let’s have a sitting U.S. Representative (call him Bob Brady) tell the judge he is “proud” to call the ex-senator “my friend.” We’ll even have him tell the judge that our criminal is “honest and forthright.” Even though he stands convicted of a lifetime of greed, theft, corruption, etc.

Next up we’ll have a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice write a letter to the judge urging him to let Fumo off lightly. Imagine the scene as that letter is being read by reporters before sentencing.

Now we fast forward to the day of sentencing. Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 15 years in prison and restitution of $4 million. Will the judge sentence him to serve the recommended time? Will the fact that Vince spent decades abusing his office and power while bleeding taxpayers to enrich himself get him the Federal guideline of as much as 27 years?

This wasn’t just one instance of corruption but an entire career of arrogantly taking from taxpayers with the belief that it was a okay as long as he gave some back to the citizens he represented. (Citizens being mostly buddies and people like himself.)

(The camera pans in for a tight shot of the judge looking down at Vince.)

The judge then proceeds to go out of his way to praise Fumo for all the good he has done over the years. The fact he stole millions for himself doesn’t seem to bother the good justice.

Then he sentences him to 55 months so that with time off for good behavior, he’ll do less than 4 years. That’s less than 11 days per felony.

The crowd grasps in disbelief. How could the sentence be this light? What’s going on with this judge? Is it all a mistake?

What do you think? Does the scenario have movie written all over it?

What’s that you say? It’s too unbelievable.

I’m sorry to tell you that’s it not. In fact, it’s all true. And it is exactly why people don’t respect or believe in our courts and government anymore. It’s why people think its okay for them to cheat the system and “get mine too.”

Judge Buckwalter’s decision is disgraceful – at the very least. But, this judge isn’t worried about his job. You see he has a lifetime appointment. It’s not just Supreme Court Justices that are with us for their lifetime. It’s all Federal Judges. Article III, Section I of the Constitution spells it out. Impeachment is the only way to remove them.

When the prosecutor told the judge that Fumo’s crimes amounted to a loss of confidence among Pennsylvania’s 11 million residents the judge belittled him and said “I can’t help but laugh. There are probably at least 9 million state residents who have never heard of him.” Buckwalter’s sentencing and statements were a personal affront to all 11 million.

We have been experiencing and accepting corruption and incompetence in our courts and with our politicians for too long. I think it is time for term limits for all of them. We can’t end up with worse than we already are getting. He’s not the first lifetime appointed District Justice who has made similar, incomprehensible decisions. And, he won’t be the last if we don’t do something about term limits.

And, Vince Fumo won't be the last politician to rape the public while brimming in arrogance and laughing at us all.

It is way past time to set term limits and to impeach, recall, and vote out those who wantonly engage is this kind of behavior.

Or, you can do nothing and let them keep getting away with crime after crime – time after time. It's up to all of us to determine the ending for this movie.

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