City records clerk gets stiffer sentence than Fumo?

Yesterday, Kelly Kaufmann Layre, a former clerk for the city Records Department, was sentenced to two years in federal prison. She pleaded guilty to selling police incident reports and other documents at a reduced rate, netting almost $186,000 over four years.

Layre used her position as a city employee to defraud taxpayers. It's good that she was caught by the Nutter Administration, and her prison sentence should send a message to other municipal workers tempted to take advantage of their positions. But we were struck by stark differences between this case and the conviction of State Senator Vince Fumo -- as well as the big differences in their sentences.

Vincent J. Fumo, shown leaving court with fiancee Carolyn Zinni, got 55 months, far less than sentences in other Philadelphia corruption cases.

The records clerk was was pretty much a two-bit crook, while Fumo was a master thief. We're not trying to downplay Layre's crimes -- her actions cost the city $600,000 in legitimate fees -- but they pale in comparison to Fumo. The disgraced state senator used taxpayer resources for everything from renovating his Fairmount mansion to spying on an ex-girlfriend. He was found guilty of defrauding state government and various non-profits of more than $3.5 million.

But Fumo was only sentenced to four years and seven months in prison. Setting aside his other crimes, that averages out to about one year for every $763,636 defrauded from taxpayers. In contrast, Layre received about a year for every $300,000. It's a crude metric, to be sure, but that $400,000 difference could be interpreted as meaning that Layre's sentence was much stiffer than Fumo's.

Of course, Layre pleaded guilty and Fumo's case went to trial, which might be part reason for the discrepancy. But there was also another factor. During the sentencing phase for Fumo, a literal parade of political celebrities -- led by former governor Ed Rendell -- lined up to pay tribute to his good deeds. It's pretty clear that had an impact on the judge, who gave Fumo a much lighter sentence than the 11 to 14 years suggested by federal sentencing guidelines.

Federal prosecutors have appealed Fumo's sentence. But we can't help but think that the two prison terms together send a mixed message about corruption. At the very least, it's hard not to see a double standard applied to small-timers like Layre and a well-connected crook like Fumo.

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