By Scott MacKAY Journal State House Bureau
--- In his salad days, Edward D. DiPrete had an audience at the
Vatican with Pope John Paul II, spent time with Presidents Ronald
Reagan and George Bush and hobnobbed with the glitterati as a
guest at publisher Malcolm Forbes's $2-million Moroccan birthday
bash in 1989. With his guilty plea in Superior Court yesterday,
DiPrete became just another in a long line of Rhode Island political
officials whose reputations, jobs, or freedom were sacrificed
on the altar of official or personal corruption.
DiPrete was the first Rhode Island governor
to plead guilty to a felony in criminal court. But there have
been all too many judges and other elected or appointed officials
who have sullied the state in Rhode Island's long history of public
malfeasance. From Charles Brayton, the legendary turn-of-the-century
State House political boss, through DiPrete, political figures
in this state have never been shy about trading favors for cold
cash or other considerations.
Two state Supreme Court chief justices -
Joseph A. Bevilacqua, in 1987, and Thomas F. Fay, in 1993 - resigned
under a cloud of scandal. Bevilacqua quit under threat of General
Assembly impeachment for associating with criminals. Fay, too,
stepped down in the face of impeachment proceedings and later
pleaded guilty in Superior Court to three counts of violating
state ethics laws, a felony count of converting state money to
personal use and a felony count of obstruction of justice.
In 1992, Superior Court Judge Antonio S.
Almeida pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting $45,100 in
bribes from lawyer Thomas C. Hutton in exchange for favorable
rulings or court appointments. He was given a six-year prison
sentence and home confinement.
In 1991, then-Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault
pleaded guilty to extortion and racketeering charges, admitting
that he had run a kickback and extortion ring from his City Hall
office. Prosecutors estimated that Sarault extorted about $1 million
from businesses seeking city contracts. He received a 5 1/2 -year
federal prison sentence. Eight other members of Sarault's administration
and businessmen were convicted of various offenses - ranging from
payment of bribes to obtain construction contracts on jobs at
Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium to fixing a drunken-driving case.
Cranston was the scene in the early 1990s
of a major corruption investigation. It ensnared Mayor Michael
A. Traficante and several members of his administration. Traficante
pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges relating to improper campaign-finance
reporting and was sentenced to one year' s probation.
Raymond J. Azar, once Cranston's director
of public works, pleaded guilty in 1993 to one count of racketeering
or orchestrating a public works kickback scheme from his City
Hall office that netted him $350, 000 in bribes from contractors.
He was sentenced to a five-year sentence, with work release.
Michael W. Piccoli, former chairman of the
state Solid Waste Management Corporation, pleaded guilty in 1992
to obtaining money under false pretenses. He was paroled after
one year of a three-year work-release sentence.
In Providence, Gary Garafano, former deputy
public works director, was convicted by a federal grand jury in
1993 of extortion. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal
Benjamin R. Zanni, former Johnston town councilman,
pleaded guilty in 1994 to a federal extortion charge. He was sentenced
to 33 months in federal prison and fined $20,000.
In a 1984 case that he now jokes about on
Don Imus's radio program and at other venues, Mayor Vincent A.
Cianci Jr. was forced out of office after pleading no contest
to a felony stemming from his assault on his ex-wife's lover.
Cianci was given probation and regained City Hall in a successful
1990 campaign for mayor. He sometimes refers to his time away
from the mayoralty as his "sabbatical."
* * *
CAPTION: BRIAN J. SARAULT:
Pawtucket mayor Pleaded guilty to extortion and racketeering charges
* * *
CAPTION: ANTONIO S. ALMEIDA: Superior Court judge Pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting $45,100
* * *
CAPTION: JOSEPH A. BEVILACQUA: R.I. Supreme Court chief justice Quit under threat of impeachment for
associating with criminals
* * *
CAPTION: VINCENT A. CIANCI JR.: Providence mayor Pleaded no contest to a felony after assaulting
* * *
CAPTION: THOMAS F. FAY: R.I. Supreme Court chief justice Pleaded guilty to ethics violations,
converting state money to personal use and
obstruction of justice
Copyright © 1998 The Providence