Put a lid on it

Why am I not the least bit surprised that disgraced former state senator Vince Fumo has spent his time behind bars writing email screeds comparing himself to Caesar and Christ?

The man who fancied himself the James Brown of Harrisburg (for his work ethic and effectiveness, not fashion sense or dance moves) always did love electronic communication. And, in one creature comforts of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, inmates can send as much email as they like so long as they have the cash to pay for it.

Fumo may not be free, but he remains wealthy.

As my colleague Craig McCoy documents in excerpts both funny and furious, the emails obtained by the U.S. Attorney's office date to April and measure 12,068 pages on paper. Not sure what the going rate is these days, but my onetime prison pen pal Rick Mariano paid $35 for every 300 minutes of online time when he resided at FCI-Fort Dix.

Mariano, the former City Councilman who hastened his own fall from elected grace, is my go-to contact on all things involving politicians, incarceration and reclamation. He understands the root of Fumo's rage, though wishes the ex-senator would channel it more discreetly.

"He's in a place now where it's all rotten people saying negative things," says Mariano, who's been free a year and is happily working as an electrician. "You can't blame the Inquirer. You can't blame anybody but yourself. But you do feel like you're being persecuted, because you see murderers get less time than you and you think, 'Am I that bad?'"

Mariano jokes about his intellectual reputation, but still knew enough to avoid putting anything in writing that could jeopardize his parole. Fumo, a Mensa member who is surely the smartest guy in any cell, appears to be ignoring the advice of both his lawyers and loved ones who wish he'd shut up and stop typing.

"It's a survival mechanism," Mariano reasons. "I'm not saying it's wrong or right, but it's the only one he has."

Next week, Fumo faces a resentencing hearing in which the government will come loaded for bear. Mariano doesn't know if his perspective will help or hurt, but he mailed off a letter to state Fumo's case. The crux?

"There's nothing Vince could learn with more time in there that he doesn't already know."

-- Monica Yant Kinney


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