Bill would strengthen AG's Ability to Prosecute Public Corruption
With Rhode Island long recognized as having weak public corruption laws, and with a majority of public corruption cases adjudicated federally because of stiffer sentences, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin's "Crimes Against the Public Trust" legislation is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.
Sponsored by Senator S. Lombardi (D-District 26, Cranston), the legislation would create several new criminal offenses including bribery in official and political matters, selling political endorsements/special influence, speculating or wagering on official action of information and theft of honest services. The legislation is based on the Model Penal Code and would allow law enforcement the tools to effectively investigate and prosecute public corruption cases. Persons convicted under the statute would be subject to a felony and face imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of $150,000.
Further, the legislation would make the corrupt officials liable for anything of value received in the course of such violation to the State. The legislation would also provide potential pension revocation for any public officer or employee who commits any felony through the use or attempted us of their position.
"Rhode Island cannot effectively go after public officials who use their office and position to their financial and political advantage without updating our public corruption laws," said Attorney General Kilmartin, who has filed this legislation since first coming into office in 2011. "We cannot continue down a path that creates cynicism about our elected officials. We, as public servants and leaders, must take action to crack down on acts that contribute to public district of our government and bring Rhode Island's public corruption statutes in line with other states and the federal government."
Senator Lombardi added, "All citizens of Rhode Island have a right to open, honest and ethical government. Yet many of the citizens I speak with are fed up with what they see as a breach of trust by their government officials. Many see it as typical, symptomatic of our current state of affairs. By passing this bill, we in the legislature are saying we need to act to change that presumption and to tell the citizens of our state that we agree we must provide a safeguard against abuse of the public trust by public servants."