CVS' verdict a setback for Corrente

The speed with which a US District Court jury arrived at its acquittal last week of Jack Kramer and Carlos Ortiz marked a sharp rebuke to the case assembled by US Attorney Robert Clark Corrente's team of federal prosecutors. And as Mike Stanton reported yesterday, there could well be broader consequences:

Will prosecutors put [John] Celona on the stand again? And can they prosecute more corruption cases in Operation Dollar Bill without him?

“Obviously, we have to look at all the additional pieces of the investigations, and his role,” said Corrente. “In some investigations, he’s not central.”

But there is one case where Celona is central –– the case against former Roger Williams Medical Center executives Robert A. Urciuoli and Frances P. Driscoll. Early this year, a federal appeals court overturned their 2006 convictions at a trial in which Celona testified, ruling that the trial judge had improperly instructed the jury on one aspect of the case.

The retrial is set for later this year –– unless the outcome of the CVS trial alters the government’s plans. Corrente says that prosecutors will reevaluate that case as well.

Urciuoli’s lawyer, Michael Connolly, was in the courtroom for part of Celona’s testimony in the CVS trial.

“The [CVS] jury rejected the testimony of John Celona, hook, line and sinker,” Connolly said Friday. “The government now has a difficult decision to make –– whether to prosecute others on the strength of his testimony.”

Quoted in today's ProJo, Darrell West says he thinks the jury got it right.

What West would like to see, however, is a tightening of the so-called “class exception,” which allows lawmakers to vote on bills affecting their livelihood as long as it affects everyone in their profession, or class, the same.

Under the class exception, for example, legislators who belong to a public employees union can vote on matters affecting unions.

“It’s something the state should think about tightening up,” said West. “There are a lot of financial conflicts involving large classes of people that may represent a larger dollar amount than an old-fashioned bribe.”

The outcome is all the more significant since Dollar Bill has represented a new focus not just on grasping lawmakers, but on those in the private sector. So those mystified by the verdict were left to wonder, as did Monique in a comment on Anchor Rising:

How can you have a bribee but no briber?

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