Lead Prosecutor in Fumo Trial Discusses Case
April 14, 2009 — John Pease, an assistant U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted and convicted former state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo on 137 counts of fraud and obstruction of justice, discussed the case with Earle Mack School of Law students on April 14.
"Enforcing criminal laws as they apply to public officials are among the most interesting types of cases," Pease said. "So many complex issues come into play."
Now the chief of the Government and Health Care Fraud Section of the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Pease and another federal prosecutor in his office led the marathon case against Fumo, who was once one of Pennsylvania's most powerful legislators.
Fumo and co-defendant Ruth Arnao, the executive director of the non-profit Citizens Alliance, were convicted on March 16 on all 182 counts involving a $4 million fraud on taxpayers and a pair of nonprofit organizations. Fumo and Arnao were additionally convicted of tax offenses and trying to thwart the investigation with a cover-up.
Pease is also an adjunct professor at Earle Mack School of Law, where he teaches Trial Advocacy.
But his appearance one month after Fumo's conviction represented the first time he talked to students about the case, which was tried over a five-month period, involving more than 100 witnesses and hundreds of boxes of documentary evidence.
Pease walked students through the case, discussing the three-and-a half year investigation, communications with reluctant and cooperative witnesses, the jury selection process, "the challenge" of cross-examining Fumo over four days and "a few lucky breaks" that aided the prosecutors.
Deborah Richman, a 2L who is taking Pease's Trial Advocacy class said the talk gave her useful insights about trial strategy.
"It was fascinating - straight from the horse's mouth," Richman said.
Mike Lee, a 3L, said he'd been sympathetic to Fumo at one time.
"It's one thing to say 'politics as usual,' but he started skimming money from a non-profit," Lee said. "Will the Philadelphia waterfront ever get developed? Not with people like this around."
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