The Judicial Backlash against Pols starts Locally

This is such happy news to hear. Seems John Celona, former state Senator in RI is now staring at 30 months in the hoosegow for selling his senate office for cash to CVS and Roger Williams Hospital. What’s more interesting is that we’re getting a 7/7 combo from Celona – seven legislators and seven corporations are under investigation. By the way, this is NOT a state case, this is a federal case which means now there’ll be that much more case law to go after corporate influence over legislators everywhere. And RI could be the very first state in which that happens.

Now – follow me here. Let’s say approximately half of those 7 of each roll on other companies and legislators. In the first round we’ll get conservatively get 3.5 more legislators and 3.5 more corporations. Again, I’m being conservative in my estimate. Considering that the entire legislature is comprised of only 113 people, you can see how this going to spread like wildfire. This is because you pretty much know that all your elected officials have their hand in one cookie jar or another.

Now, of those seven legislators I guarantee that most all are in top leadership positions in the house and senate. You know they’ll roll on the rank and file to save their own skins.

And I love how Celona is all of a sudden remorseful. Yeah, right. How can you tell if a politician is telling a lie? His/her mouth is moving. Judge Torres can’t see through the act which surprises me as Torres is known as a tough judge. But then I’ve heard that Torres has some political aspirations of his own which might explain everything.

I see this as encouraging that people are finally waking to the danger of allowing corporations any influence on the legislative process.

Here’s the ProJo article in its entirety:

Celona, Urciuoli sentenced in corruption case
A prosecutor says an ongoing investigation could lead to 14 more criminal cases, involving seven politicians and seven corporations.
01:57 PM EST on Wednesday, January 31, 2007

PROVIDENCE — Former state Sen. John A. Celona, once one of the most powerful lawmakers at the Rhode Island State House, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for selling his office for personal gain.

Shortly after, U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres also penalized form er Roger Williams Medical Center president Robert A. Urciuoli for stealing Celona’s honest services, with a sentence of three years in prison.

Urciuoli took responsibility for Celona’s hiring and requested leniency for co-defendant Frances Driscoll, a former vice president at Roger Williams. “It was my decision and my decision alone to hire John Celona,” Urciuoli said.

Driscoll was convicted in October with Urciuoli. She was found guilty of one count of mail fraud, but acquitted of conspiracy in Celona’s hiring. Her sentencing, originally set for 11:30 a.m. today, is now due to start at 2 p.m.

Celona, a North Providence Democrat who had served as chairman of the powerful Senate Corporations Committee, two years ago admitted selling his office to Roger Williams Medical Center, the drugstore chain CVS and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. He gained $319,000

He pleaded guilty to three counts of mail fraud in August 2005. Celona was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison this morning for each of the three counts, but they are to be served concurrently. Celona faced 1 1/2 to 3 years.

He was ordered into federal custody March 2.

During this morning’s proceedings, a prosecutor said that Celona’s cooperation in an ongoing investigation could lead to 14 more criminal cases, involving seven politicians and seven corporations.

Celona’s cooperation with investigators has already led to the convictions of Urciuoli and Driscoll and the indictments this month of two former CVS executives.

The federal government’s lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gerard B. Sullivan, characterized the information Celona has provided to federal prosecutors as unparalleled.

Sullivan didn’t go into any details about the seven additional politicians and corporation under investigation. Sullivan said it’s not clear how many prosecutions will come from those 14 separate investigations.

An emotional Celona spoke for six minutes, telling Senior U.S. District Judge Ernest C. Torres, that he will continue cooperating.

“I would like to express my remorse, apologize and take full responsibility for my past actions. I am truly sorry,” Celona said. “I am in some ways glad all of this has happened.”

That’s because, Celona said, in the past three years he has become “a better husband, better father and in some respects just a regular person living in the real world.”

“I was living in a superficial world in the State House,” he said.

At that moment, through tears and with his voice cracking, Celona professed his faith in Jesus Christ.

The last three years have affirmed that “family and honor are the most important aspects of life, not power, not politics, not glory,” he said.

Judge Torres told Celona, “I have a feeling that you are genuinely remorseful for what you’ve done.”

Referring to future prosecutions, he said, “You’ve testified and apparently will be testifying in future cases.”

Torres spoke of the culture of corruption and said he hopes this sentence will send a message to other office-holders.

“The message doesn’t seem to have sunk in,” he said, referring to other cases in Rhode Island.

“I hope, but I’m not sure I can say I’m optimistic, that what’s happened in this case” will deter further corruption, Torres said.

Celona must also serve two years of supervised release. As conditions of that supervised release, he must commit to eight hours of community service each week for two years.

He also must pay the cost of the supervised release, the cost of which is $3,450.

Urciuoli was convicted after the same trial of one count of conspiracy and 35 counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced today to 3 years on each of the counts and all are to be served concurrently.

Urciuoli has until noon April 2 to turn himself in to prison officials. Torres denied a request to stay Urciuoli’s sentence until his appeal can be heard.

The jurors acquitted a third defendant, Peter J. Sangermano Jr., who owned the Village at Elmhurst, where Celona was paid $257,000 as a consultant from 1998 to 2004.

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