The Betrayal

For 30 years, as Vince Fumo ruled Philadelphia politics, we knew how he operated: You were either on his side or he’d try to destroy you. The behind-the-scenes run-up to his federal trial this month reveals something new: His family works in exactly the same way

IT WAS MARCH 2003, and Vince Fumo should have been happy. He was Vince Fumo, after all, and his life had been an epic, unlikely success. When he was a kid, no one would have singled him out for greatness. He was runty and meek. He got beat up a lot. And yet his transformation from wedgie magnet to the Vince of Darkness, the most feared Democratic politician in the state, was the stuff of local legend and long magazine profiles. He was rich. He was powerful. He owned a 99.9-acre farm where he planned to raise alpacas, whose meat, he had heard, was very profitable.

[sidebar]And now, for the first time, it looked like Vince Fumo might soon be blessed with grandkids. Vince had three children. His 34-year-old son, Vincent E. Fumo II — named after his grandfather — and his eldest daughter, Nicole, 30, were products of his first marriage; Allie, 13, was a product of his second. Vincent II wasn’t married, but Nicole was preparing to tie the knot. She was a lithe brunette — no trace of the jowly, canine features that make Vince look like a bobblehead doll of himself. Her groom was an ex-football player at Penn State and a lawyer who had worked for Vince for almost five years. Christian Marrone was six-foot-three and 270 pounds. He had thick black eyebrows and slicked-back Pat Riley-type hair that was starting to thin a little on top. He was loud, ambitious and ballsy — ballsy enough, anyway, to have walked into Vince’s office to ask Vince for his daughter’s hand. The day it happened, Vince sent an e-mail to Nicole’s mother, Susan Meo:

Christian was just here and has asked for my permission to ask Nicole to marry him. He is already broke from buying her an engagement ring!  … Well, we’ll see where this chapter in life now takes us! I hope to a happier place!

More than once, Vince had told Christian that he considered him to be like a son. And now Christian was marrying his daughter, making it official. There was only one problem, from Vince Fumo’s point of view: He wasn’t invited to the wedding.

Vince has dominated Philadelphia politics for so long that we’ve come to believe we know him. We know his motivational slogan, We get shit done, and his personal credo, Balls and brains, loyalty and leverage, which he has mused may be the title of his memoirs. We know about the power, the money, the pork, and the Tony Soprano-like way he polarizes the political world into two warring camps: people who are with Vince Fumo, and people who need to be driven into the dirt. What we didn’t know, until now — the eve of the second trial in Vince’s career (a 1980 mail-fraud conviction was overturned on appeal a year later) — is that Vince’s personal life operates in much the same way. The Fumos are living a multi-generational tragedy. It’s operatic and sad and often absurdly petty — which is to say, it’s family stuff. Complicated.
And if Vince weren’t Vince, the tragedy of the Fumos would remain a private one. But on September 8th, when the federal trial begins (assuming Vince doesn’t strike a plea bargain, which at press time appeared unlikely), the private saga will spill into the public life of Philadelphia. Because Vince won’t merely be staring down the barrel of a 139-count indictment on charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He’ll be staring down his own family. At some point during the trial, Vince will look up at the witness box and see, providing key testimony for the government, none other than his son-in-law, Christian P. Marrone.

THE WEDDING FLAP HAD BEGUN INNOCENTLY enough back in 2001, with a disagreement over the guest list. Vince sent his ex-wife Susan Meo and her husband Joe a list of people he wanted to invite. The Meos sent it back with five names crossed off. According to Vincent II, “My dad was like, what the fuck is wrong with this? They crossed off all the Jews.” Vince e-mailed the Meos:

I have invited the people I chose to invite. Look, if you all want me involved, I come with my baggage or I don’t come at all!!! I WILL NOT BE INSULTED LIKE THIS!!!

Baggage. The Meos knew this was coming. Most of the time, they got along with Vince okay, but it was a wary relationship. Susan was a retired RN, Joe a business, estate-planning and tax lawyer; they donated to GOP causes, planted GOP signs on their well-manicured Whitemarsh lawn. Joe showered Christian and Nicole with love and attention, a fact that Vince had always resented. (He’d tell his friends, “Look, this guy didn’t have any kids of his own, and he decided he wanted a family — so he took mine.”) And now this Jew thing … They regarded it as vintage Vince, and dismissed his objection as “preposterous.”

In reaction to Vince’s insistence on controlling things, Nicole and Christian decided to postpone the wedding and try again in six months. But six months later, it was even harder. This time around, the Meos made it clear that the guest list was non-negotiable, and Vince, still simmering, decided to apply some leverage. He had known Christian’s father, Carmen Marrone, for decades. Carmen was one of Vince’s guys — a committeeman in South Philly, and an official with the Turnpike Commission, a job he owed to Vince. “He went to get [Carmen’s] support,” says Joe Meo. “It’s like a campaign. An election … it’s a political trick in your own family.”

This was the last straw for Nicole and Christian. They let Vince know he wouldn’t be welcome at the wedding. Vince’s friends had never seen him so upset. “It was just awful,” says a longtime confidant. “It’s just an absolutely hideous thing for a child to do.” So Vince’s people planned a surprise birthday party at the Sheraton Society Hill, seven weeks before his actual birthday — “as a distraction,” says the friend, “so that he would be with his friends and not left alone under those circumstances.”
The party planners, led by Ruth Arnao — the former executive director of Vince’s charity, Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, and his alleged co-conspirator — picked a date: March 21st. It was the same date as Christian’s serenade of Nicole. (The serenade is a traditional ritual in South Philly betrothals, a sort of formalized karaoke where the groom-to-be sings a song to the bride-to-be in front of all their loved ones.) Vince’s friends say this was a coincidence, an innocent scheduling snafu. But Nicole and Christian didn’t buy that for a second.

Christian sent Vince an e-mail: Hey, I’m not gonna be there at your surprise birthday party. So happy birthday.

It’s not easy to plan a surprise party for a powerful man. “Ruth calls me up, crying,” says Vincent II. “She’s in tears: ‘How did he find out?’” FumoWorld exploded in rage at Christian. His inbox began to fill up with scary messages. One ward leader close to Vince threatened to crash the wedding and make a scene. Christian called the Whitemarsh police. That’s why on March 22, 2003, two of the 184 guests sitting in the pews at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Lafayette Hill were undercover cops, there to make sure no one would try to prove his loyalty to Vince by storming inside and wreaking vengeance.

THE INDICTMENT, when it finally came down — February 6, 2007 — was a surprise. Not the fact of it. Everybody knew it was coming, thanks to the Inquirer, which had been churning out beefy scoops about the finances of Citizens’ Alliance all the way back to 2003.

The paper’s big revelation was that Vince had used his leverage as head of the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee to shake down PECO for a cool $17 million, concealing the money by funneling it to Citizens’ Alliance. But as it turned out, Vince wasn’t indicted for shaking down the $17 million — although he was indicted for allegedly scurrying to erase the evidence. No, he was indicted, broadly, for spending that windfall. On … home improvements. Seventy-five grand in toys: 17 identical Oreck vacuums for his multiple homes. Hundred-dollar-a-gallon white paint imported from Holland. According to the feds, this was part of a pattern. Vince used his Senate aides as personal maids and chauffeurs. He used Senate funds to hire a private investigator to spy on people he believed had turned their backs on him, including two of his ex-girlfriends and his former aide John Dougherty, now a political nemesis. The indictment is a catalog of the ways Vince Fumo apparently not only blurred the line between the personal and political, but hacked that line to bits with an illicitly purchased $449.99 meat saw.

And nowhere is this clearer than in the parts of the indictment that involve Christian Marrone. He appears, anonymously, as “Person No. 19.” We learn that he went to work for Vince in 1997, in his South Philly office at 1208 Tasker Street. In his first 18 months on the job, No. 19 spent 80 percent of his time supervising a top-to-bottom renovation of Vince’s mansion. The government prints a long string of e-mails that Vince sent Christian, demanding that repairs get done to sinks, tubs, toilets; the subject line of one was: “LEAKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK-FUCK-FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Christian also pops up in the indictment as a campaign worker on the 2002 gubernatorial race (supporting Vince’s horse, Bob Casey, over Ed Rendell); as a go-between for Vince and his private investigator; and as a Citizens’ Alliance worker bee and project manager.
The picture is one of a good soldier, rewarded for his loyalty with meatier jobs. At the same time, there’s a  hint that Christian was uncomfortable with the freewheeling nature of Citizens’ Alliance. Two days after 9/11, he e-mailed Vince suggesting that Citizens’ Alliance should increase its charitable activities and hire more professional management. According to the indictment, Vince responded:

Yes, that would be nice but then it would cost us a lot more and CONFIDENTIALLY (only because I trust you) if we had such a person and tried to do some of the things that are political that we do, we would now have someone else “in our tent” and we would be subject to his blackmail if they so chose to do it.

Loyalty, leverage. Vince trusted Christian. Christian was squarely in the tent — until 2002, when he passed the bar exam, moved to Montgomery County, and, shockingly, began to get heavily involved in Republican politics. In 2003 and 2004, as the investigation got rolling, Vince’s friends scrambled to figure out who had betrayed Vince by giving the FBI, and/or the Inky, all this dirt, this road map to FumoWorld. In the absence of evidence, they settled on a name — the name of the guy who, despite having been given so many opportunities, had left the city, left the Party, left The Vince. “I gotta know that Christian probably had something to do with the beginning of this investigation,” says Vincent II. Says Councilman Jim Kenney, another Fumocrat, “I think Christian Marrone clearly showed disloyalty.” The feeling was unanimous; the implication obvious. “At some point,” says Councilman Frank DiCicco, a longtime Fumocrat, “all roads led to Christian Marrone.”

CHRISTIAN’S FOOTBALL career at Penn State ended before it ever began. In his second year as a redshirt, he injured his left knee. He would never play a single minute of a single game. But Joe Paterno was kind to him, and kept him on as an undergraduate assistant. And in the off-hours, JoePa — a political junkie and a friend of the Bush family — would nurture Christian’s interest in politics. Christian began to shove voter forms at his football teammates, trying to get them to register as Republicans. They busted his balls about it constantly, but Christian didn’t care. He was constructing an entirely new identity around politics. The bartender at the Shandygaff, a State College watering hole, simply called Christian “The Mayor.”

In 1997, Christian graduated and landed a full-time job at Tasker Street, in part thanks to his father’s connection to Vince. In the peculiar argot there, he was Vince’s “flag ensign” — a term borrowed from the British navy, and a synonym for “Vince’s 24-7 shadow.” Christian traveled with Vince, arranged his flights, picked up his dry cleaning. Vince “likes having a sycophant,” says a former Fumo staffer. “The job sucked, there’s no question.”
Yet there was never a shortage of flag-ensign wannabes, because to serve as the flag ensign was to become, for a time, Fumo’s surrogate son. Fumo’s actual son, Vincent II, had been a serial fuckup in his father’s eyes — a sweet, wild, confused guy in his late 20s, willfully immature. Fumo’s staffers called him “Mini-Vinnie” behind his back. Mini-Vinnie was thin and pale, a computer geek who wasn’t into making money. Vince wanted him to be a lawyer, but the kid kept saying he wanted a career in “video editing,” whatever that meant.

There was a yawning filial void at the heart of FumoWorld. And into this void rumbled Christian. “Christian was sort of the son that Vincent wished he had at the time,” says Jim Kenney. “He was the college grad, law student, football player, young guy to hang with.”

“Sort of the fair-haired child,” agrees Frank DiCicco. “And next thing I knew, he was dating the Senator’s daughter.”

IT WAS VINCE’S doing, actually. He knew that Christian was heading to Temple Law in the fall of 1999, at the same time as Nicole. So Vince asked Christian to keep an eye on her, make sure she was safe. The two of them were dating by October.

Vince seemed to approve, but it was hard to tell. He never quite came out and said it, but Vince’s young male staffers had always gotten the picture: Don’t go there. Everybody knew that Vince and his daughter didn’t get along. Vince wasn’t comfortable with kids. He used to say — joke? — that “children are the worst return on investment known to man.” They baffled him, and he spent most of his hours at work. When the first divorce came, in 1985, Vince and Susan agreed to joint custody of the kids, who were then 15 and 12. For a time, Vincent II and Nicole stayed at a building Vince owned on Spruce Street. According to Susan, the kids were left alone all day in a basement apartment; one of Vince’s staffers brought them food. (Vince declined to talk on the advice of his lawyers.)

Nicole resented Vince for rarely being around. According to her mother, he never apologized for his absentee fatherhood.  Vince, if you believe his friends, would readily admit that he’d failed Nicole. One of his friends shared an e-mail that Vince, the friend says, sent Nicole in September 2000 (Nicole denies ever receiving the e-mail and doubts its authenticity):

Subject: Hi Pretty!
I am on the plane to Paris and I can’t sleep so I thought I would write you! …
I know life has not been easy for you and to whatever extent I have contributed to your unhappiness I am truly sorry. You see, kids don’t come with instruction books, and I don’t know everything about how to raise children. None of us do. But we all try. I was screwed up as a kid myself and that spilled over into adulthood. It took years and years of therapy to try and get me to figure out where I had screwed up my life. …
I want to teach you all that I know about life, love, business and politics! Maybe your kids will do better because of what you and I have been through!
Who knows! All we can do is hope and pray and keep trying. …
I LOVE YOU!
DAD

Meantime, Tasker Street gossip about Nicole and Christian was dark in the extreme. There were two competing theories. One had it that Nicole was a spoiled, pouting, Paris Hilton-type hottie who was exploiting this dumb jock to get back at The Vince. The second theory built on impressions of Christian as a self-inflated ass who exaggerated his past exploits and was in a hurry to run for political office. This theory had it that Christian, seething with humiliation at being Vince’s whipping boy, made himself a bridge between Vince and Nicole, thereby positioning himself to run for office under Vince’s wing. Leverage.

There was also a third theory, not much discussed in FumoWorld: that Nicole and Christian were decent people who genuinely loved each other, and had more in common with each other than with Vince. They were conservative by temperament — Nicole wanted lots of kids, and Christian had been raised as a pro-life Catholic. (One of his brothers, Michael Marrone, is a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.) They were both eager to leave the city and start afresh in a new place. Christian began to think about a future in the GOP, where he could carve out his own political identity.

So in 2002, after Christian and Nicole finished law school and passed the bar, Christian quit his job with Vince and became a prosecutor with the Montgomery County D.A.’s office, working under GOP golden boy Bruce Castor. Nicole went to work as a lawyer in Joe Meo’s firm. That fall, the two moved to Whitemarsh, in Montco — a suburb of leafy streets that had been majority-Republican for decades but was rapidly losing ground to the Democrats. Christian began making the rounds of GOP fund-raisers in a sharp suit, looking every bit the lifelong Republican and making crucial connections to people like GOP power broker Bob Asher, who remembers him as “a guy that you knew was going to move up through the ranks.”

Nicole wasn’t talking to Vince at this point. Christian still was, although the relationship was becoming increasingly strained. Then, in 2003, the wedding fiasco played out, and Nicole and Christian shut off communication definitively. They finally had their clean break.

Or so they thought. What Nicole and Christian did next was a fuck-you to the hardest-core Dem in the state: They ran Nicole for public office, as a Republican — a Fumo with an “R” next to her name. She ran for the board of supervisors in Whitemarsh. Christian and Joe Meo raised $60,000 to elect her and her fellow Republican board candidates, and she lost by about 100 votes. So close. So close. And then they found out that a state committee controlled by Vince had given $1,000 to an opponent … money that could have made all the difference.
Even in the Montco D.A.’s office, Christian could feel the thumbprint of The Vince — not because Vince had any power there, but because Christian carried the hardscrabble ethos of Tasker Street into an office that was far more genteel. His direct supervisor remembers that Christian did a good job, but others found him threatening. “He’s large in stature and kind of blustery,” says Bruce Castor. “Big mouth.” Castor says he fired Christian in 2004 because Christian supported Tom Corbett for attorney general — instead of Castor.

Later that year, Christian went to work for the Bush/Cheney campaign as counsel, then moved to Washington, D.C., with Nicole after the inauguration. They landed good jobs quickly: Nicole in the voting-rights section at the Department of Justice, and Christian as a lawyer, first with the Army, then in the Pentagon. He cut his teeth beating back the Abu Ghraib scandal, giving tours of Guantanamo Bay to the likes of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Today, several promotions later, Christian is the “principal deputy” in the Pentagon’s legislative affairs office — the conduit between the military and Congress. He’s the civilian equivalent of a three-star general; his boss says he has “one of the best legal minds I’ve seen.”

In August, I visited him at the Pentagon. He wore glasses and navy suspenders, and when he leaned back in his chair, the buttons of his shirt strained against his massive chest. His Penn State jersey hung on his  office wall, with an autographed photo of Donald Rumsfeld making a triumphant fist. Christian made it clear he wouldn’t talk about Vince or the trial, but he did say, “We were happy to start a new life in Montgomery County. And we were happy to start a new life here in Washington, D.C. And we are better off for it. We are happy where we are. Happy where we are. Happy with life. We have two beautiful kids. We have a beautiful house. We are independently successful, independent of anybody and anything. Everything is our own.”

People helped him, sure — but Christian maintains he is what he is, not because of Vince Fumo, but because of Christian Marrone. Christian isn’t going to apologize for his ambition; in the world outside Philadelphia, ambition isn’t a sin, nor is it evidence of disloyalty. It’s actually rewarded. But in FumoWorld, you either know your place or pay the price.
MINI-VINNIE asks me to be nice to him.

This is his first interview with a reporter in his 39 years. He is shockingly sweet and open and warm. The Vince of Lightness, the Vince of Peace. He has short brown hair and a layer of stubble flecked with white. His glasses are black-rimmed, like an architect’s.

“Nobody’s telling my side of the story, or my family’s side of the story,” he says over lunch on Spruce Street. And to hear him tell it, his father has always been misunderstood, starting with his image as the Vince of Darkness (“It’s like, come on. He’s just a guy. He’s doing his job”) and extending to the perception that he was an unloving dad. “My father might not have taught me how to throw a football, but when we wired our Shore house and I was 12 years old, I was his assistant.” (The Vince is a polymath: he flies his own plane, brokers his own real estate, and is a licensed electrician.)

Not that Vincent II hasn’t butted heads with his father. In what was “a weird period in my life,” he stopped talking to Vince in 2000. During that time, Christian got in touch and invited him to get a cup of coffee at Cosi. He says that Christian told him, “Yeah, we’re gonna ruin [Vince’s] career. We’re gonna get him. Do you wanna get involved in this, too? You must hate him.” Vincent II adds, “I didn’t think about it much at the time. … He’s like, ‘I’m talking to people.’ Who could he be talking to?” Then, some months later, Vincent II says, he had dinner with the four exiles in Whitemarsh: his mother, her husband, Nicole and Christian. “There they are, talking about, ‘Oh, when your dad’s out of his job … ’” (None of them recall this dinner.)

In FumoWorld, mothers and sons part company over alliances. As Vincent II cleaved closer to his father, partly because of the wedding flap and partly because Vince was beginning to accept that video editing was a legitimate career — “It’s like, holy shit, this is a skill” — he mulled over the Cosi meeting and subsequent dinner and began to get suspicious. Then the indictment came, and Vincent II heard “convincing rumors” that his stepfather, Joe Meo, in his capacity as an attorney, had been helping Christian talk to the government. Last year, Vincent II called his mother to ask if it was true. He says she denied it. “She point-blank lied to me,” Vincent II says. Since then, he and his mother haven’t spoken. (Susan says that until her son “chose to get into ‘the bunker’ with Vince,” she and Vincent II “enjoyed a perfectly fine relationship.”) Essentially, Vincent II alleges a plot — a get-Vince conspiracy, hatched by his own blood relations. “They’re all, like, really religious, all about good and evil,” says Vincent II. “I can see how they just worked off of each other.” Responds Susan, “We are ‘all Republicans’ and very proud of it. Republicans embrace personal responsibility; they do not shirk it or blame others or, worse yet, blame ‘society.’”
To the extent that Vincent II places Christian at the center of this plot, it dovetails with the other major get-Vince theory — the one that pegs John Dougherty, not the Meo clan, as Christian’s co-conspirator. Frank DiCicco told me a story. When DiCicco was appointed to the Port Authority board in 2004, he sat next to Doc at his first meeting, and Doc nudged his shoulder and showed DiCicco his BlackBerry. On the screen was an e-mail. DiCicco says it went something like: Dear John. Over the next few weeks I will not be that available. I will be in Washington D.C., working on the Bush-Cheney team. Signed, your pal, Christian Marrone. Says DiCicco, “We all started realizing: Doc is gloating. This guy is my guy. He’s the guy to bring the Senator down. And he’s my guy.”

Doc isn’t talking, but a person who has done political work for Doc’s union, Local 98, confirms that within the union, “It was common knowledge that Marrone had some hand in guiding the FBI. … Doc has a very good sense of aggressive people trying to advance themselves, and bringing them in.” The speculation here is that Doc would have promised to help Christian raise money to run for political office if, in exchange, Christian dimed out Vince to the feds. Christian’s brothers say this is absurd. “Why wouldn’t Dougherty do it himself?” says Michael Marrone, the priest, who has known Doc longer than Christian has. “John is a person who respects family. … John’s not like that.”

As for Vincent II’s allegations of a plot, they’re “unmitigated nonsense,” in Joe Meo’s words. According to the Meos — who have never spoken to the media before, and who reluctantly handed me a five-page statement in response to Vincent II’s allegations — this all grew out of Vincent II’s fight with his father on Y2K. Vincent II was convinced that when the calendar flipped, the world’s computers would shut down. “He was preparing for Armageddon,” says Susan. The family was vacationing down in Florida. Vincent II was stockpiling food. He even got his father to buy a generator. Of course, Y2K was a dud, and Vince mocked his son. Over the next two years, as Vincent II struggled to find himself, Vince reached out to Susan via e-mail, asking for help reconnecting with his son. And Susan would respond with detailed suggestions. The Meos weren’t out to get Vince. They were trying to help the poor bastard — which is how the Cosi meeting came about, they say. “Christian was being a friend to Vincent and reached out to him,” Susan writes. “Not to discuss Vince, but to help Vincent as a brother would. Obviously, Vincent misunderstood.” (Vincent II says his falling-out with his father wasn’t over Y2K, but refuses to elaborate.)
Central to the get-Vince narrative is the idea that Christian had a choice — that he went to the U.S. Attorney freely, and early on. Susan and Joe say this isn’t true. In the summer of 2004, well into the investigation, the government called Christian. Both of Christian’s brothers told me the same thing — that Christian was reluctant to talk. Of course, you can always tell a government agent to screw off. You don’t have to answer questions. But the government has leverage. (Howard Cain, Vince’s longtime pollster, got flipped over tax evasion charges.) Failing that, there’s always a grand-jury subpoena.

There’s only one thing that everybody agrees on: Vincent II is Mini-Vinnie no more. He’s back in his father’s good graces. He works at Comcast now, as a software engineer in the Interactive Media division. But he’s taking a leave to support his father during the trial; Vincent plans to blog daily from the federal courthouse. He says he got permission from his father and his father’s lawyer to do it, just like he got permission to give an interview to me. By stepping into a public role for the first time in his life, he’s reclaiming his mantle as a Fumo. “You know, when my dad had his heart attack,” says Vincent II, “and I was there, and it was, who’s going to talk to the press? I was like, ‘I’m going to talk to the press.’ I was freaked out and terrified. [But] everybody was like, wow — now your father has a family.”

VINCE TALKED about loyalty for 30 years. Balls and brains, loyalty and leverage. He said it was the core of him. He said it so many times, he convinced us that he really meant it. That’s the stunning thing: He didn’t. At least, not in the sense of loyalty as a two-way street, generosity begetting gratitude, and on and on in a virtuous chain. Vince did help a lot of people get their start in politics. Many of these people love and revere him. But the fact that he helped people is incidental, as his family saga suggests. For Vince, loyalty was about control. It was about getting his way — not just with the city and the state, but with his own son, his own daughter, his son-in-law, his ex-wife. Loyalty was just a word — a convenient explanation for his deep need to dominate and complicate everything around him.
And now Vince is out of good options. If a jury finds him guilty, he could go away for up to 10 years. If he pleads guilty and avoids a trial altogether, he’ll probably still have to do some jail time. His best chance may be to double down on all the old traits and fight like hell to win at any cost. This would mean closing the door on one half of his family: never talking to Nicole or Christian again, never seeing his grandkids before he dies. (Nicole and Christian have two young daughters; Vince has never met them.) It would mean finishing the project that his partisans have already begun — portraying his son-in-law as a buffoonish rat and his daughter as an ungrateful shrew. Team Vince hopes that focusing attention on what it considers Christian Marrone’s act of betrayal will obscure the question of Vince’s own betrayal — of his office, his constituents and his oath.

But Vince has no one to blame but himself. Nobody forced him to live his life like a German opera, sucking everyone he loved into a weird whirlwind and spitting them back out, angry and confused, struggling to put their lives back together. Nobody forced him to shatter the relationships that even now, on the  eve of his trial, his son says he’s trying to salvage. Vince is Vince, and that means he’s capable of feeling heartbroken about how it all went bad with his daughter even as he apparently authorizes his surrogates to attack the character of her husband — and, by extension, Nicole.

 “It’s just this sad thing,” says Vincent II at our lunch. “It’s awful. … Even recently, he was looking through some e-mails that he had sent my sister. He was like, where did I go wrong? He was still upset that he didn’t have a good relationship with his daughter.” Vince’s son chews on a straw, looks into the distance, and smiles. “He’s painted as the bad guy, but he’s the one still trying to put his family back together after all these years.”

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