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Robert Ciresi Loses First Circuit Bribery Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 09, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Will convicted Rhode Island attorney Robert Ciresi accept his fate, or appeal all the way to the Supreme Court?

Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Ciresi's 2011 conspiracy convictions.

A federal jury convicted Ciresi, a 78-year-old North Providence attorney, on bribery, Hobbs Act extortion, and conspiracy charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to purchase the votes of three corrupt town councilmen on two zoning matters. The three councilmen pleaded guilty and went to prison. Ciresi was the only one to proceed to trial.

While federal sentencing guidelines outlined a minimum sentence of 97 months in a case like Ciresi's, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi only gave Ciresi 63 months in prison. His attorney, who pushed for home confinement in lieu of federal prison, claimed that the punishment is "potentially a death sentence" due to Ciresi's age.

During the trial, the district court admitted into evidence -- under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E) -- a number of recorded statements one of the councilmen made to a government informant about Ciresi. On appeal seeking a new trial, Ciresi argued that some of those statements should have been excluded as hearsay, and challenged the admission of all the statements under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause.

Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, finding that the recorded statements about Ciresi were all made during the course of, and in furtherance of, an ongoing, multi-phase conspiracy in which Ciresi was an active member. Accordingly, they were admissible as nonhearsay under Rule 801(d)(2)(E).

The appellate court also noted that the recordings captured co-conspirator statements, which are not considered to be testimonial; the Confrontation Clause only applies to testimonial statements.

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