Thu January 31, 2002
Plunderdome Charges Stand
By Av Harris
Providence, RI – The corruption trial of Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and five co-defendants in the Operation Plunderdome case will go forward, after a federal judge Thursday refused to dismiss any of the charges.
Lawyers for the defendants argued during a hearing that federal prosecutors failed to present the different charges in a manner that qualified them to be considered racketeering. The defendants also claimed some of the crimes alleged in the indictment are too vaguely described. They include bribery, extortion, and running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.
Judge Ernest Torres rejected the defense arguments, saying the charges were clear and do present a pattern of criminal behavior specifically outlawed under the general racketeering statute.
In a partial victory for Cianci, Torres blocked the government from using evidence that prosecutors say show corruption during the mayor’s first administration from 1976 to 1984. Cianci’s lawyer Richard Egbert said such evidence is not relevant to current charges and could prejudice jurors. Judge Torres mostly agreed, but said the evidence would be relevant if Cianci brought the issue up in court.
Egbert may have to step aside from the case if the evidence is allowed, because he once represented one of the government’s witnesses in that case in an unrelated matter.
Further hearings have been scheduled to determine whether this evidence can be admitted at all. Judge Torres said he wants the mayor to appear in court to indicate whether he wants to keep Egbert as his lawyer if the evidence is introduced.