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Pa. lawmaker wanted e-mails erased, tech testifies

Pa. lawmaker wanted e-mails erased, tech testifies

A former co-defendant of an ex-state senator charged with corruption testified Tuesday that the once-powerful legislator frantically ordered him to destroy office e-mails amid an FBI investigation.
Computer technician Mark Eister said he destroyed e-mail evidence on what he said were orders from former state Sen. Vincent Fumo and his top aides.
Eister said that following a 2004 report about the probe in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Fumo began issuing frantic orders to his staff about the need to quickly delete e-mail correspondence and "wipe" clean computer hard drives.
"It was fallout from the Jan. 25 article about the FBI investigation," Eister told the jury.
Fumo, 65, is charged with 139 corruption, obstruction and tax charges, and co-defendant Ruth Arnao, who ran a South Philadelphia nonprofit group linked to Fumo, is charged with about 45 counts, most related to alleged charity fraud.
Eister, who pleaded guilty to five conspiracy-related counts in August, faces two or more years in prison. He is one of the last government witnesses expected to testify in Fumo's lengthy trial. The defense may get its turn to call witnesses as early as next week.
Another co-defendant, fellow computer technician Leonard "Lenny" Luchko, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction and had been expected to be a key government witness. But that is now unlikely after prosecutors disclosed Monday that he has stayed in regular e-mail contact with Fumo and commented on the case under fake names on a newspaper blog.
Luchko sent thousands of e-mails to people connected to the case in recent years _ about 350 to Fumo and another 50 or more to Arnao, and thousands more to former Fumo staff members, prosecutors said. Some had been sent since the trial started in October.
Printouts of the newly found e-mails were stacked in court and measured 19 inches high.
"(There are) many messages in here in which he says he didn't do anything wrong," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer told the judge. "(It) goes to his credibility, especially since he pleaded guilty."
U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter has delayed the trial to give defense lawyers time to scrutinize the e-mails and prepare to cross-examine Eister. The trial is expected to resume Wednesday afternoon, although defense lawyer Dennis Cogan could ask for more time to prepare.
Fumo, a Philadelphia Democrat, left office last year after 30 years, some of it in powerful leadership posts. He is charged with defrauding the state Senate, a charity and a museum of more than $3.5 million. He has pleaded not guilty.


Updated : 2021-03-09 03:03 GMT+08:00