Lawyer sentenced to 5 years in bribery case


A Rhode Island attorney tearfully apologized on Wednesday before being sentenced to five years and three months in prison for his role in facilitating bribes for three former North Providence town councilmen.

“Your honor, I’m deeply sorry,” said Robert S. Ciresi, 78, whose hands shook as he read prepared remarks in U.S. District Court in Providence and extended a special apology to his family. “I’m sorry for the shame and the stress and the hurt that I’ve put them through. They don’t deserve this.”

Chief Judge Mary Lisi told Ciresi that his role skulking around a parking lot at night to be a bagman in a bribery scheme “reeks of corruption.”

“Sadly, Mr. Ciresi, I’m going to sentence you to prison today. That’s a choice you made when you decided to help with the bribes instead of telling them to stop,” said Lisi, who recalled Ciresi’s status as a role model when she was a young lawyer.

A jury convicted Ciresi in April of conspiracy, bribery and extortion. The sentencing guidelines called for him to spend between five years and three months to 6½ years in prison.

Ciresi must surrender on Aug. 31. He also will lose his law license, said his attorney, John F. Cicilline.

U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said the sentence was appropriate.

“I think it sends the right signal,” he said.

Cicilline said Ciresi will appeal his conviction.

“I feel very strongly about the appeal,” Cicilline said. He added that he plans to appeal Lisi’s decision to deny Ciresi bail while his case moves through the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Cicilline had sought home confinement for his client, citing his age, 52 years of law experience, public service record and “overall good character.” Cicilline also said Ciresi’s role in the scheme was minor and that he suffers from high blood pressure, gout and acid reflux.

Federal prosecutors wanted Ciresi to serve eight years in prison, saying in court filings that he “has not shown one iota of acceptance of responsibility for his criminal conduct; not an ounce of remorse or regret.”

In the first bribe, a supermarket developer paid $25,000 to the then-councilmen – John Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield and Raymond Douglas III – in exchange for votes to approve a zoning change needed for the project to go forward. Ciresi, who represented the developer, delivered the bribe to Zambarano in February 2009 at a nighttime meeting in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant in Cranston, which was observed by the FBI, prosecutors said.

Ciresi was accused of putting Zambarano and the others in touch with the middleman in the second bribe in early 2010. Through that middleman, prosecutors say, the councilmen demanded a $75,000 bribe from another developer who needed a zoning change to convert a defunct mill into housing. The developer had paid only $21,000 by the time the councilmen were arrested.

The developers have not been charged.

Zambarano was sentenced in May to just under six years in prison. Burchfield was ordered to prison for five years and four months, while Douglas received 6½ years.

Leave a Reply