U.S. Attorney erases criticism of Fumo judge

Federal prosecutors took back their scorching criticism of U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter Wednesday, two days after blasting his 55-month sentence for former State Sen. Vincent Fumo as "a travesty."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bresnick, in the case of former City Council aide Christopher Wright, today amended his Aug. 3 sentencing memorandum in which he took issue with Buckwalter's sentence for Fumo and urged Wright's judge to disregard the potential precedent it could set.

Wright, former chief of staff to Councilman Jack Kelly, is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno on Monday after being convicted of conspiracy in a public corruption indictment in February. In his original memo, Bresnick wrote:

"The Fumo sentence was, as scores of citizens stated in unsolicited letters and phone calls to our office and to the district judge's chambers, a travesty. Besides imposing insufficient punishment for the offenses at issue, its worst legacy will arise if other judges follow that court's mistaken lead, and use the Fumo sentence as a baseline for public corruption offenses. That should not happen. This court should not follow a path of condoning and lightly punishing breaches of the public trust by public officials."

Bresnick is seeking a 78-month sentence for Wright -- nearly two years more than Fumo, who was convicted on 137 counts. Wright was convicted on three of 13 counts. His memo was also signed by U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy, which is customary.

But for a prosecutor to direct such fiery words at a federal judge is not customary. Someone in the U.S. Attorney's Office apparently found that language a bit strong, and on Wednesday Bresnick submitted a new memo, which dramatically changed the passage related to Fumo. 

It now reads: "The government respectfully suggests that the Fumo sentence was not sufficient for the crimes that Fumo committed and requests that it should not be considered by this court as a guidepost when fashioning an appropriate sentence for Christopher Wright."

The rest of the changes in the document were minor.

The U.S. Attorney's Office could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

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