A Rhode Island man who poured a flammable liquid into a police cruiser during a night of violent unrest in Providence in the summer of 2020, turning a small fire into an inferno that turned the vehicle into a charred wreck, was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.
Nicholas Scaglione, 32, expressed remorse at his hearing in the U.S. District Court in Providence, at which he was also sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay the Providence Police Department the $52,000 cost of the cruiser.
Scaglione committed the act in the early morning hours of June 2, 2020, in what former Gov. Gina Raimondo called an "organized attack on the community" outside the Providence Place mall.
What started as a peaceful gathering to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was hijacked by some seeking violence, and Scaglione became part of a "mob" bent on destruction, authorities said.
"This defendant chose to quite literally fan the flames of a riot," U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said Thursday. "Incinerating a police car, he needlessly endangered the lives of law enforcement and the public, and dishonored the proud legacy of Americans who have worked for change through peaceful means."
Before intensifying the fire, the Cranston man stood on top of the unoccupied cruiser, threw something at it and joined others in trying to flip it onto its side, prosecutors said.
In the aftermath of the destruction, the FBI released surveillance images and video from the scene which led to tips from people who know Scaglione. Police reviewed cellphone messages in which he admitted to helping burn the cruiser and expressed animosity toward law enforcement.
"That was pent up years of rage and frustration with the way I’ve seen and been treated by police," he said in one text. "That cop car can be replaced. Peoples lives cannot."
Scaglione pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit arson.
He originally pleaded guilty in March 2021 to a charge of malicious attempt to damage or destroy a vehicle, but was recharged after a disagreement over his sentence.
Scaglione's attorney, William Dimitri, said in court Thursday his client is a "good kid" who "made a horrible, life-altering decision."
"I believe the court gave full consideration of the conduct charged and Mr. Scaglione’s background and took into consideration that this conduct was very much an aberration," the attorney said in an email, calling the sentence fair given the circumstances.
A second man charged in the case was found incompetent to stand trial in March 2021 and was ordered to a hospital to undergo mental health treatment. That case is pending.