STATE SEN. Vincent Fumo has faced criminal charges twice before in his 35-year political career - and both times, he beat the rap.

In March 1973, Fumo was among eight people charged with vote fraud in an alleged conspiracy to help state Sen. Henry "Buddy" Cianfrani win re-election in South Philadelphia.

The charges were dropped without a trial - after the Republican district attorney who brought the charges, Arlen Specter, lost a re-election bid to Democrat F. Emmett Fitzpatrick Jr.

Fumo's second brush with the law was a federal indictment in 1980 for placing Democratic Party workers in Philadelphia into no-show jobs on the payroll of the state Legislature.

A federal jury convicted Fumo of mail fraud, with two other political figures - ex-city Democratic chairman Peter Camiel and former state Sen. Democratic leader Tom Nolan, of Pittsburgh.

But in August 1981, U.S. District Judge Clifford Scott Green overturned the jury verdict. He ruled that the evidence presented at trial was at odds with the allegations in the indictment and that the government had failed to prove there was a single conspiracy to defraud the public.

The U.S. attorney's office appealed and sought a new trial. But Green's ruling was upheld by the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

At the time, Fumo was an up-and-coming state senator, elected in 1978 to fill Cianfrani's seat. A felony conviction would have destroyed his political career while he was still in his 30s.

When the case went to trial, Fumo testified that he was aware of five people on the payroll of the state House or Senate who were actually working for the Democratic Party in Philadelphia - three at the Democratic City Committee and two in Fumo's South Philadelphia ward office.

But Fumo testified that legislative leaders had broad discretion about the use of their payroll accounts and that the five people he knew were working hard at whatever tasks they were assigned.

"Back in 1975 you didn't think that was a crime?" Fumo's attorney asked him.

"No, not at all," Fumo said.

The federal jury disagreed, convicting Fumo, Camiel and Nolan of mail fraud in October 1980.

Ten days after the verdict, South Philadelphia voters re-elected Fumo to the Senate.

By agreement with Senate leaders, he delayed his swearing-in for months, waiting for Judge Green to rule on his appeal.

When the ruling finally came, Fumo told reporters, "I let go a lot of emotion. . . . I cried for a while." *