Power: Fumo, After the Fall

The most powerful politician in Philadelphia is heading to jail. In an exclusive interview, Vince Fumo talks about the agony of his trial, and why he still doesn’t know what he did that was so wrong.

Fumo’s mansion sits next door to the Convent of Divine Love. A frosted window separates Fumo from a grotto of the Blessed Mother and a convent of nuns who’ve taken vows of silence and engage in perpetual worship. Like the nuns outside his window, Fumo, a former Catholic schoolteacher, has turned to prayer.

“You pray, and you hope for fairness,” he says. “And you hope for mercy.”

 

THE FEUDING FUMO clan wasn’t the only family story that played out in Courtroom 17A. The strangers who met on the jury that decided Vince Fumo’s fate also developed strong bonds. Like Fumo, the 10 women and two men on the jury are still coming to terms with their experiences.  

“When you spend five months with people, you become like an extended family,” says juror Kimm Guckin, sitting on her front porch in Levittown and cradling the granddaughter born shortly after the trial. “We went through a lot together.”

The group threw a baby shower for a pregnant juror who gave birth to a baby boy after the trial. They brought in cakes to fete each others’ birthdays. They celebrated Thanksgiving together, had a Pollyanna for Christmas, and toasted the New Year. And when it came to the evidence they heard at the trial, they were in agreement. “We were all on the same page,” Guckin says. That turned out to be bad news for Vince Fumo.

“You don’t take advantage of who you are. And you’re not entitled to other people’s money,” Guckin says, using the phrase that Fumo and his associates adopted as their M.O. It was a challenge, however, to follow Judge Ronald Buckwalter’s instructions not to discuss the case with anyone and to ignore the media. “The hardest thing was on the train,” Guckin says. “People were talking about it and I would move my seat.”

“I tried to stay open-minded all the time,” says Joanne Pinkston, who as Juror No. 1 sat closest to the witness stand, and who became known as “the tissue lady” for dispensing Kleenex to sobbing witnesses. “Okay, maybe he did something good. But the more he said on the stand,” she recalls thinking, “‘You’re hanging yourself, buddy.’” The mountain of prosecution evidence “was so clear.”

But on Fridays, when court wasn’t in session, Pinkston showed up at her job as a maintenance administrator at Verizon. Co-workers stopped by and talked about things in the media, such as Fumo’s prior 1980 conviction, subsequently overturned by a judge, for hiring ghost employees. Judge Buckwalter repeatedly turned down prosecution requests to tell the jury about that prior conviction. But Pinkston found out anyway, even though she held up her hands and told co-workers: Please don’t talk to me, I can’t discuss the case. Co-workers also told her that John Carter, former president of the Independence Seaport Museum, and the guy who gave Fumo permission to take free yacht trips, was doing time for fraud. The judge didn’t want the jury to know about Carter, either.

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  • Randy

    I am sure his Mom and Dad are proud. Another crooked (I am bigger then Life) Politician