Fumo defense closing continues

February 26, 2009 4:14:44 PM PST
Closing statements continued Thursday at the Vince Fumo corruption trial, and now the spotlight falls squarely on the defense.The defense team is trying to chip away at the government's massive case against the former state senator. Prosecutors say Fumo lived large by defrauding millions of dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and Citizen's Alliance, the multi-million dollar non-profit Fumo created.

In court Thursday, lawyer Ed Jacobs tried to explain why Citizen's Alliance in South Philadelphia purchased $83,000 dollars in farm equipment for Fumo's farm near Gettysburg.

"This was no more than a courtesy. A well-deserved courtesy. We had equipment he needed," Jacobs said. "A well-deserved courtesy to the benefactor of this organization."

Then there's the building at 12th and Tasker, owned by Citizen's Alliance, but it housed Fumo's primary senate office, his re-election headquarters and some secondary office space for Citizen's Alliance.

Jacobs says this triple-use building was not a Fumo swindle of other people's money as the government contends, but rather a great deal for Pennsylvania's taxpayers.

"If you carry this through to its logical conclusion, we are committing a crime by giving the taxpayer's a break, by giving the Senate of Pennsylvania a lower than market rate. That is a crime. As Senator Fumo said, you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't."

Also Thursday, Jacobs told jurors that Fumo got relatively little from a nonprofit he started, despite charges he defrauded it.

Jacobs says the Philadelphia Democrat could have pocketed a large commission for steering a $17 million gift from an electric company to the Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods.

The defense is expected to finish its closing argument early next week. Then the judge will give the case to the jury.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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