Fumo wants son to testify

February 3, 2009 5:27:11 PM PST
Indicted ex-Sen. Vincent Fumo hopes to call his son as a defense witness in his ongoing corruption trial to counter earlier testimony from his estranged son-in-law.

Prosecutors say the son, Vincent Fumo II, shouldn't be allowed to take the stand, because he was not sequestered when son-in-law Christian Marrone testified for the government last year.

They also note that the younger Fumo blogged from the courtroom when the trial started in October. The blog is not public and is accessible only to invited readers.

The ex-senator's lawyers want the son to discuss family tensions and allegations that his father had copies of private e-mail exchanges between Marrone and the ex-legislator's eldest daughter, Nicole, stored on his computer.

Marrone was Fumo's protege until they had a falling out about in about 2002. He married Fumo's daughter in 2003. As a prosecution witness, he told jurors that he spent much of his time as a state Senate employee overseeing renovations at Fumo's historic Philadelphia mansion.

The 65-year-old Fumo is charged with defrauding the state Senate, a Philadelphia charity and a museum out of more than $3.5 million. Prosecutors charge that he used state employees for myriad personal and political chores, and then ordered senate staff to destroy evidence after news of the FBI investigation broke in about 2004.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter may rule on whether Vince Fumo II can testify when the trial resumes Wednesday. If Buckwalter allows it, he would likely take the stand sometime next week.

The son's testimony would come after that of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who has agreed to honor a defense subpoena to testify Monday morning. Rendell will be asked about Fumo's work ethic, defense lawyer Dennis Cogan said Tuesday.

The governor and Fumo worked with each other over many years, "so he knows about the work ethic, how they work together over the years, wherever (Fumo) is, whether it's in Florida or Martha's Vineyard or wherever," Cogan during a break in the trial.

Rendell and Fumo share a long history as two of the city's most powerful Democrats. Rendell was the two-term Democratic mayor of Philadelphia, while Fumo represented the city in Harrisburg for 30 years until he retired last year to focus on his criminal case.

But they were not always close allies. In 2002, Fumo supported Rendell's opponent Bob Casey, now a U.S. senator, in the gubernatorial primary. A senate contractor testified earlier that, at Fumo's request, he investigated whether Rendell was using nonunion labor at his New Jersey shore house, something that could prove a political liability.

Two Fumo loyalists who testified Tuesday said they worked long hours for the state Senate, but did personal chores for the senator only after clocking 37.5 hours a week for the state.

On cross-examination, former Fumo driver David Nelson acknowledged that his children did their homework on a Senate-issued computer kept at his house. He also said he drove vehicles to Martha's Vineyard for Fumo, and occasionally chauffeured his daughter or picked up groceries for him.

Patricia Freeland, a lawyer who earned a $57,000 Senate salary working in the city's Spring Garden section, where Fumo lived, acknowledged that she kept Senate computers at her home after she left the Senate job.

"I probably didn't give them back soon enough," Freeland testified in a testy exchange with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pease.

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