News (USA)

Former Rhode Island House speaker gets 3 years for corruption

Former Rhode Island House speaker gets 3 years for corruption
Gordon Fox
Gordon Fox AP

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for corruption, bringing to a close the federal investigation into a man once considered the most powerful person in state government.

Crying, Fox apologized to his family, friends and to the state when he addressed the court.

The 53-year-old Democrat became the nation’s first openly gay House speaker in 2010. He represented Providence for 11 terms in the House. He stepped down as speaker the day after a dramatic raid on his Statehouse office in March 2014 but remained in his seat until his term expired in January.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions. No excuses, no justifications,” Fox said. “I committed illegal acts and I’m very sorry for it.”

He said the only explanation he could offer was greed, keeping up with the joneses and stupidity. He said he got himself in a bad financial situation and didn’t know how to get out of it.

Fox pleaded guilty in March to charges of bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return. He acknowledged taking more than $50,000 in bribe money from a Providence restaurant when he was a member of the city board of licenses and admitted he took more than $100,000 from his campaign account for his own use.

Prosecutors and Fox each agreed to request a three-year term as part of a plea deal.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi on Thursday called it “an appropriate, fair and just sentence.” She said Fox’s actions were crimes of choice.

She noted that Fox waived an indictment, saving the government considerable time and resources, and he waived the statute of limitations on the bribery count.

Federal prosecutors painted a picture of a man living far beyond his means and using bribes and campaign cash to finance his lifestyle. They said he made less than $73,000 per year on average from his modest solo law practice but had a mortgage of $3,800 per month.

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In court filings, they said that soon after he arranged the $52,500 bribe, he bought a $50,000 Audi. Still, he was left with a monthly car payment of more than $800.

They also said that from 2011 to 2013, neither Fox nor his husband made a single cash withdrawal from a bank teller or ATM, indicating he had a different source of cash.

In a court filing, Fox’s lawyer, William Murphy, said Fox committed financial crimes “because his financial life was not in order.”

Fox must surrender by the afternoon of July 7.

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