Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp today filed a federal judicial code of conduct complaint against U.S District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, alleging that the judge's comments during the sentencing of former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo "has undermined the public confidence in the independence and integrity of the court."
Last month, Buckwalter sentenced Fumo to 55 months in prison -- or four years and seven months -- after federal prosecutors had urged the judge to impose a prison term of more than 15 years. Fumo was convicted of charges that he illegally extracted $4 million in benefits, defrauding the Senate by getting workers to do his personal and political work on state time and defrauding two nonprofits. He also was found guilty of obstructing justice.
In imposing the sentence, Buckwalter noted more than 250 letters of support for Fumo that the defense had submitted. He said he had received only about five letters from people who were against Fumo.
In his complaint, Stilp states that thousands of letters could have been generated by citizens "who have witnessed Mr. Fumo's vindictive and corrupt methods ... but citizens did not realize that Judge Buckwalter made his decisions based on letters from defendants' political friends and benefactors."
"The citizens expected a lot more from a sitting federal judge," Stilp added.
Buckwalter's office said the judge would have no comment on the complaint.
Stilp contends in his complaint that only an investigation by "a body appointed by the federal judiciary can learn the true facts behind the sentencing of Mr. Fumo," and determine whether "Judge Buckwalter was politically influenced" in meting out the punishment.
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