Ciccone was arrested twice in the early ’80s, testified in Chief Justice Bevilacqua’s impeachment case
State Senator Frank A. Ciccone, under fire for threatening comments allegedly made to Barrington police during a road stop last week, was arrested twice in the early 1980s and testified under immunity against the late former state Supreme Court chief justice Joseph A. Bevilacqua during his 1986 impeachment trial.
Ciccone confirmed during a brief interview on the Senate floor yesterday that he had testified against Bevilacqua. Also yesterday, Ciccone agreed in closed talks with Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed to relinquish his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight, while also leaving that committee and Senate Finance. He plans to remain vice-chair of the Senate Labor Committee.
In a story about the state Training School on February 19, 1992, the Providence Journal reported that the same Ciccone who’d testified against Bevilacqua had “twice been arrested in connection with incidents involving loaded guns, although he had a license to carry a gun. In each case, he was found guilty of lesser misdemeanor charges that were later expunged from his record.”
The Journal said the arrests happened in Providence in 1981 and Narragansett in 1983.
Asked about the arrests, Ciccone — in an apparent reference to how the charges were expunged — said, “Show me the arrest records … Show me the arrest records.” Senate aides stepped in to end the interview as yesterday’s session was being called to order.
Previous Providence Journal stories show that Ciccone testified under immunity during the Bevilacqua trial, saying that “he helped run a hay business operated by the Bevilacqua family farm in Foster, sometimes during the hours he worked [as a court employee] for the state.” Among other things, Bevilacqua became known for visiting Mob hangouts.
The Journal reported Ciccone was unwilling to testify until he received immunity. Bevilacqua was the first of two state Supreme Court chief justices to leave office amid scandal; Bevilacqua resigned in May 1986. The ProJo says Ciccone was a pallbearer at the former chief justice’s funeral in 1989.
The Journal offered this account, in its story on February 19, 1992, of Ciccone’s arrests in the early 1980s.
Narragansett police charged him with carrying a loaded shotgun in a moving car and smashing a window at a bar, according to police records.
A year later, District Court Judge Albert DeRobbio dismissed the gun charge, saying that police did not have probable cause to obtain the search warrant.
Ciccone pleaded no contest to malicious property damage. That charge was filed for a year, with the understanding that the record would be cleared if he had no further trouble with police during that time, and Ciccone was ordered to make restitution.
In Providence two years earlier, Ciccone was charged with two counts of assault after he punched a cab driver and his passenger. Police took a loaded pistol from Ciccone during the arrest but said they did not charge him with a weapons violation because he had a license to carry it.
These misdemeanor assault charges were expunged from the court record after a year.
The 1990 arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, for shoplifting condoms, has become the stuff of legend in Rhode Island politics. By contrast, Ciccone’s background seems to have been lost in the mists of time, with a number of staffers and reporters from the ’80s having forgotten most of the details.
ProJo stories describing Ciccone’s past are behind the newspaper’s pay wall (UPDATE: although older stories were inaccessible without paying a fee even before the pay wall), which could help explain why the information hasn’t surfaced until now. Ciccone was first elected as a senator in 2002, and his official biography is far less detailed about his previous work experience than this one compiled by the voter-information group VoteSmart. It shows how Ciccone, prior to his current work as a labor rep, had a lengthy tenure working as a state court employee and then for the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.
By 1993, Ciccone was serving as acting superintendent of the juvenile prison known as the Training School.
A ProJo editorial on March 20, 1993 called for Ciccone’s removal from that position “because he is a bizarre role model for the trouble-prone youths in his charge.” As evidence, the paper cited the acting superintendent’s earlier arrests and how he’d run errands for Bevilacqua.
Last week, Barrington police said that Ciccone threatened them with political retribution and made a series of phone calls after police stopped Ruggerio on suspicion of operating under the influence shortly after midnight on March 28. Ciccone initially questioned unspecified parts of the police account, but said afterward he regretted it if he said anything inappropriate. The senator yesterday called the incident “unfortunate,” and declined to talk about it in greater detail.
Ciccone has worked most recently as a field representative for the RI Laborers’ District Council. He has won re-election every two years since first gaining his Senate seat in 2002, and says he plans to seek re-election this year.