Former Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis' written plea for sentencing mercy to a U.S. District Court judge reads like a victim impact statement from someone who is absolutely not a victim.
Mr. Buffis asked Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to give him probation rather than sentence him to prison today in Springfield on his June 15 extortion conviction. Mr. Buffis was acquitted of 10 other charges related to his alleged mishandling of a toy fund he ran and theft from it, but the judge ruled that his alleged theft of funds from the Lee Police Association was proven to the court sufficiently in his trial for it to be considered at his sentencing.
The statement from Mr. Buffis contained no acknowledgment of guilt or an apology. His assertion that he was trying to give a "second chance" to Tara Viola and Tom Fusco, whom he was convicted of extorting $4,000 from in the form of a donation to a charity toy fund in exchange for dropping criminal charges against them, is a preposterous rationalization. Current Lee police chief Jeffrey Roosa got to the essence of that action in his own letter to the judge when he said Mr. Buffis "used his badge to say, 'Give me your money, or else.'"
In a letter awash in self-pity, Mr. Buffis criticizes the media for doing no more than printing the facts of the case as presented in court. His deep concern for the loss of his $900,000 pension comes through clearly, and his complaint that the loss of his firearm license means that he can't go target shooting with his family is shamefully self-serving.
A letter written collectively by the Lee Police Department that is included in the government's sentencing memorandum rings far truer. "The very foundation of policing is found in having the respect, trust and support of the community," wrote the department members. "Mr. Buffis chose to exploit that trust for personal gain."
There are victims in this case, including the family of Mr. Buffis. The former chief, despite his blame-shifting and self-pity, is not one of them.