I wasn't planning at first to say anything new about the sentencing of Vince Fumo's aide and criminal accomplice Ruth Arnao; after Federal Judge Ronald Buckwalter lowered the bar of justice on Fumo's wrist-slap sentence, it was hardly a shock to see that Arnao was sentenced to just one year and one day behind bars. It took the DN editorial page to outrage me further by noting that Arnao's sentence is just eight days a felony conviction, beating Fumo's low water mark of 12 days for each count. Records for light sentences are falling this summer as quickly as home run milestones in baseball's (still not quite ended) steroids era.
This, the editorial notes, on a top of a judge getting only a four-month suspension from the bench for running a real-estate business from his judicial chambers and other recent Philly offenses against good government. To me, this represents a complete breakdown of community; the recent actions by judges and top politicians like Mayor Nutter and Governor Rendell prove that the "community" our leaders value and feel kinship with is the community of their own kind, the folks they see around the Palm every day at lunch, not the far-flung community of regular people they have grown so isolated from.
You would think one solution to this problem would be a more aggressive media. Well, yes and no. In the case of Judge Buckwalter, one of the reasons he cited in giving Fumo such a light sentence is that he's actually offended by watchdog journalism:
Most notable was Buckwalter's criticism of the media reports of the Fumo case, claiming that the Inquirer, which broke the Fumo story that led to the federal investigation, turned the case into "an ongoing spectacle."
This is a tangible result of all-around media cynicism (a good amount of which the media has brought upon itself, as frequently chronicled at this site.) Thus, we see the spectacle of a judge currying favor with the elites by bashing the newspapers, knowing that a lot of the public is as distrustful of the media as they are of politicians. What a vicious cycle. And the losers -- as always -- are the tax-paying, law-abiding citizens of Philadelphia.