Judge Considers Motion To Dismiss Rhode Island Mayor's Trial

The judge excused the jury after the prosecution rested and said he would rule Tuesday on defense motions seeking dismissal of charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Rose tried to leave jurors with his contention that businessman Antonio Freitas paid bribes to top officials in the Cianci administration.

Cianci, his former top aide and alleged "bag man" Frank Corrente, and businessmen Richard Autiello and Edward Voccola are charged with racketeering, extortion, bribery, witness tampering and mail fraud.

The four are accused of taking bribes, often disguised as campaign contributions, in exchange for favors, tax breaks and contracts with the city.

Cianci attorney Richard Egbert briefly questioned Freitas again and implied that Freitas' memory seemed conveniently better when answering prosecutors' questions.

Last week, whenever a defense lawyer questioned, he asked to review transcripts of some 180 conversations he taped with various city officials.

"You were trying to trick me last week," Freitas said.

Asked repeatedly by Egbert why he didn't need to reference the transcripts during questioning by the prosecution, Freitas said: "Tapes don't lie."

"People do ... am I right?" Egbert said. Freitas didn't answer.

Freitas, who owns an air conditioning supplier that had contracts with the city, made the tapes from April 1998 to April 1999, soon after he was rebuffed for a lucrative city contract, despite being the lowest bidder.

Prosecutors showed dozens of those tapes to the jury, including statements by former city tax board Chairman Joseph Pannone that are considered some of the more damaging evidence against Cianci.

Two of the surveillance tapes show Corrente apparently taking a pair of $1,000 bribes in his City Hall office from Freitas.

During the hearing on the request to have the charges dismissed, Egbert argued that prosecutors have failed to show the mayor was directly involved in a criminal enterprise or that the alleged crimes add up to racketeering charges.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence Donnelly said Cianci is responsible for the acts of all other members, even if he insulated himself by directing others to carry out the actual criminal acts.

U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres said he would rule Tuesday on the motion.

With the defense set to begin presenting its case soon, speculation has swirled about whether Cianci, known as a clever, quick-witted orator, will testify.

"I'd be shocked if Cianci testified," said David Zlotnick, a law professor at Roger Williams University. "If he does, you can be sure that it will be over the objection of his attorney."

Known by most in Providence as "Buddy," Cianci is the city's smiling public face and the longest-serving mayor of any American city. He shakes countless hands every day, makes a point of meeting every out-of-town dignitary who sets foot in Providence, and often receives accolades for Providence's renaissance.

Cianci, a former state prosecutor, was first elected mayor in 1974 as a Republican. He was re-elected in 1978 and in 1982, when he switched to independent. Two years later, he was forced to leave office after pleading no contest to felony assault on a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife. He received a suspended sentence and was re-elected in 1990.