A lawyer for Michael Corso, who was involved in talks to bring 38 Studios from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, on Friday challenged the legal basis for a hearing into whether Corso violated state lobbying laws.
Secretary of State Ralph Mollis’ office launched an investigation into possible violations back in May. That was after Channel 12 reported that Corso had signed a consulting agreement with 38 Studio, dated 2011, that called for him to get $300,000 a year to interact with government agencies and public officials. He was not registered to lobby for 38 Studios. But one of Corso’s lawyers, Anthony Traini, says using media reports to foster a presumption of guilt violates the principle of due process.
“That’s not how it works in America," Traini said. "It may work that way in other countries; it’s not the way it works here. That’s essentially what we’re doing here, right now, is responding to the secretary’s allegation of something that came to his attention by virtue of press reports and interviews with television people.”
Traini registered a series of objections to the basis for the hearing, and Corso did not attend, as hearing office Louis DeSimone allowed the case to move forward. The hearing was continued until July 29 to allow lawyers to review documents related to the case.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Traini said, "Obviously, we think there's more to this than simply trying to determine whether or not there was lobbying going on four years ago, and we've read the articles in the paper, we've seen the media reports. As far as we're concerned, there isn't any doubt that this is a political issue and it has a lot to do with the fact Mr. Mollis wants to be lieutenant governor, and he's trying to figure out a way to make people think that he's actually doing his job as secretary of state."
Mollis wasn't immediately available for comment.