Former Rhode Island House Finance Chairman Ray Gallison has been sentenced to more than four years in prison. Gallison pleaded guilty to nine counts including mail fraud, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and identity theft.
Gallison, a Democrat from Bristol, was one of the most powerful members in the General Assembly before he resigned his post in May of last year. He took more than $660,000 to enrich himself, from a variety of sources, including the estate of a deceased man and money meant for an education nonprofit.
Federal prosecutors argued for the recommended sentence for such crimes, 33-41 months because it would be a deterrent to other public officials and attorneys. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland called Gallison’s actions a betrayal of public trust. Ferland called Gallison a scoundrel, despite a lack of criminal history and numerous letters in support of his character. He added that a lesser punishment would be a disservice to the public servants who have not broken the law.
Further Ferland argued that Gallison’s standing as an attorney and lawmaker aided his ability to commit his crimes, thanks to his understanding of the legal system and public recognition. He said Gallison was “lulled into a sense of entitlement” and a misguided belief his actions would not be questioned. He said Gallison, who had the benefits of education and family, was motivated only by greed.
Gallison’s lawyer, Anthony Traini, argued there was no evidence to prove that the former lawmaker’s actions were aided by his position as a lawmaker. Traini said other crimes, such as assault, would be tried without bearing on a person’s status as a public figure. He said to punish Gallison harshly could make others think twice about running for office. Judge William Smith quipped that such a sentencing might make others think twice about committing a crime.
Traini also argued that Gallison had been cooperative. Smith questioned whether Gallison or his defense had been the cooperative parties. Traini recognized Gallison’s elevated public status, but called the outsized attention to the trial nothing but fodder for the media. Traini also reminded the court that the lawmaker had already been disbarred and no longer serves after 16 years in the General Assembly.
Gallison took the opportunity to speak in court to apologize to his family, friends and anyone he had hurt by his actions.
Judge William Smith recognized that Gallison would not be likely to reoffend, nor did he need rehabilitation. However, he said it was difficult to separate Gallison the public figure, from Gallison the private citizen. In the end, Judge William Smith sentenced Gallison to 27 months for all but one charge, six-months fewer than the recommended amount. The charge of identity theft comes with a mandatory two-year sentence. Gallison will also be required to complete 100 hours of community service upon his release.
He made no comments following the sentencing. Gallison is scheduled to head to a not-yet-determined federal prison on July 10th.