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June 6, 2008
Update: Mayor Cicilline's brother admits to shake-down
Lawyers John M. Cicilline, the brother of Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline, and Joseph A. Bevilacqua Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston this morning along with former legal assistant Lisa Torres to charges involving a $150,000 scheme to shake down drug dealers to manipulate the criminal-justice system.
The change of plea hearing began at 10:30 a.m. today before U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.
Journal file photo
John M. Cicilline
The plea comes just before Cicilline, Bevilacqua, Torres and another ex-legal assistant, Juan A. Giraldo, were to go on trial Monday. Giraldo has been serving a federal prison term in Ohio on other drug charges.
Cicilline, one of Providence's most prominent criminal-defense lawyers, faces 18 months in prison and the loss of his law license as a result of his agreement to plead guilty to charges that he shook down drug-dealer clients for $150,000 to manipulate the criminal-justice system.
As his family watched, including Mayor Cicilline, John Cicilline agreed to change his plea before Judge Gorton.
Cicilline also agreed to pay $15,000 in restitution and a $4,000 fine.
Co-defendant and former law partner Bevilacqua, son of the late chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, agreed to serve 21 months. And Torres, their former legal assistant, agreed to 18 months.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 11.
The fourth co-defendant, Giraldo, also is expected to plead.
The four were indicted early last year on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal authorities.
Cicilline pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to federal authorities.
Bevilacqua pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and Torres pleaded guilty to three counts –– one each of conspiracy, obstruction and making false statements.
Mayor Cicilline issued a statement today, saying: “Right now my focus is on family. This is a very difficult time for my family, especially my three nieces and my parents, and I need to be there for them.”
-- Journal staff writer Mike Stanton
The indictment charged that the lawyers conspired with legal assistants Giraldo and Torres to provide the authorities with information about other drug dealers, which would then be used to bargain for more lenient sentences for their clients.
In return, the indictment said, a husband and wife whom Cicilline and Bevilacqua defended in a federal drug and money-laundering case in Boston, John and Jacqueline Mendonca, allegedly paid them $115,000 between late 2002 and early 2004. The indictment says that the remaining $35,000 sought was never paid.
The couple secretly tape recorded conversations about the alleged scheme while in jail at the Plymouth (Mass.) County House of Correction.
At the time of the indictment, Bevilacqua was less than two weeks from completing an 18-month federal prison sentence for leaking a confidential FBI videotape to a Rhode Island television reporter. That conviction led to Bevilacqua’s disbarment from practicing law.
Cicilline appeared in U.S. District Court on Jan. 5, 2007, to formally face the charges. He was released on $10,000 unsecured bond and his travel was limited to Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
In February, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston moved to revoke or amend the terms of Cicilline’s release saying he violated the terms of his bail in the summer of 2007 when he traveled to New Hampshire to defend an accused drug dealer.
Posted by Andrea Panciera at 1:11 PM | Permalink
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