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January 18, 2008
Update: Appeals court vacates Urciuoli, Driscoll convictions
In a major decision announced this afternoon, a federal appeals court has vacated the corruption convictions of two former top Roger Williams Medical Center executives and ordered a new trial.
Robert A. Urciuoli, the former president of the medical center, and Frances Driscoll, former senior vice president, had appealed their convictions tied to paying former state Sen. John Celona to advance the hospital's agenda at the State House.
The former executives argued to the three judge 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that the jury had gotten faulty instructions from Judge Ernest C. Torres in U.S. District Court in Providence.
In October 2006 verdicts, Urciuoli was found guilty of conspiracy to commit "honest services" mail fraud and 35 counts of "honest services" mail fraud, or aiding and abetting such fraud. Driscoll was convicted of one count of "honest services" mail fraud. Execution of their sentences was stayed pending their appeals.
In their appeals, the defendants argued the judge's instructions "wrongly allowed for conviction" based on Celona lobbying mayors and in meeting with insurance companies, "conduct that they claim does not constitute a federal crime."
The appeals court ruled that Torres instructed, over the defense's objection, that pertinent law included not only exercises of power such as votes but also any actions done "under the cloak of office."
The appeals court decision found the "ambulance run advocacy with the mayors cannot qualify as a deprivation of 'honest services' owed to the public." The court added that urging local officials to follow law "is not easily described as a deprivation of honest services, actually or potentially harmful to the citizens of Rhode Island."
Celona, a North Providence Democrat who had served as chairman of the powerful Senate Corporations Committee, admitted selling his office for personal gain to Roger Williams Medical Center, the drugstore chain CVS and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. He pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud in August 2005 and was sentenced a year ago to 30 months in federal prison.
Read the decision today by the appeals court.
Extra: Look back at coverage related to the Celona corruption case and the investigation known as Operation Dollar Bill.
-- projo.com staff writer Michael P. McKinney, with Journal archival reports
Posted by Mike McKinney at 4:36 PM | Permalink
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