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The Attorney General of the State of Rhode Island is charged with the responsibility of prosecuting all felony criminal offenses occurring in the State of Rhode Island, all misdemeanor criminal cases brought by State law enforcement agencies, and all misdemeanor cases appealed to the Superior Court.
The Criminal Division is comprised of 149.1 staff members, consisting of prosecutors, paralegals, secretaries, victim advocates, investigators and financial auditors. These individuals work together to assist the Attorney General in fulfilling his Constitutional obligations. Cases are prosecuted by attorneys assigned to the general criminal trial calendar and through specialized units focusing on white-collar crime, narcotics and organized crime, gangs, firearms offenses, juvenile offenders, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, Medicaid fraud, elder abuse and traffic safety.
Prosecutors brought hundreds of financial crimes cases to disposition, with Court ordered restitutions totaling $9.1 million.
The Criminal Division works closely with local law enforcement, assigning Superior Court prosecutors to act as liaisons to each of the forty-four law enforcement agencies in the State in order to provide legal assistance, and with our federal partners making joint decisions on which office should assert jurisdiction where both state and federal charges are viable.
Prosecutors are available to law enforcement 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist in serious matters or complex investigations. During the weekends and holidays, prosecutors rotate coverage to handle the presentation of violations of probation and bail. In 2012, prosecutors logged over 550 uncompensated hours in weekend duty alone, providing coverage for all areas of the State. In addition, prosecutors and support staff consistently worked beyond their 35-hour work-weeks, ensuring court calendars were completed, witnesses were interviewed and cases were well prepared for trial. Altogether, members of the criminal division logged in nearly 10,000 uncompensated hours in 2012.
The volume of cases handled by the prosecutors in the criminal division is staggering. Intake Unit prosecutors in Providence County reviewed cases for felony screening and grand jury presentations and negotiated case dispositions through the pre-arraignment calendar. Prosecutors assigned to the trial calendars and specialized units focused on trial preparation, handling cases from the pretrial stage through to disposition. A county prosecutor traveled to each of the county offices to handle felony screenings for Kent, Newport and Washington Counties, and Statewide Grand Jury presentations were handled by various prosecutors throughout the Division.
In 2012, the Providence Intake Unit reviewed a total of 4,722 packages, ensuring there was sufficient evidence to go forward in the Superior Court. The screening prosecutor reviewed 4,449 packages for information charging and in grand jury; prosecutors reviewed 273 packages for presentment to the Providence County grand jury. The county offices also screened over 1,200 felony packages for charging (485 in Kent, 443 in Washington and 284 in Newport County). Statewide, the Division proceeded to file Criminal Informations and Indictments with the Superior Courts in 5,012 felony cases. Prosecutors handled 95 new applications for Post Conviction Relief with decisions being reached in 344 pending matters. It is important to note that the courts dismissed hundreds of cases in January of 2012 where no action had been taken in over five years. The Division has continued to have one prosecutor who is assigned to the Appellate Unit designated to handle post conviction matters, freeing up valuable resource time for trial prosecutors to concentrate on their criminal cases.
Division prosecutors disposed of 4,831 felonies and 239 misdemeanors at the pretrial conference stage of the case. In total, there were 4,425 cases disposed by these plea negotiations, accounting for 87% of the disposed cases handled throughout the State. In 2012, Division prosecutors, with the assistance of the White Collar Crime Unit, brought hundreds of financial crimes cases to disposition, with Court ordered restitution totaling approximately $9.1 million dollars. As of August of this year, over $213,000 was paid up front to the victims at the time of disposition, with the remaining schedule of payments to be determined by the courts.
The year 2012 was an exciting year for the Criminal Division in terms of technology with the implementation of the Department’s Case Management System (CMS). Funded in part with federal stimulus money, the system was designed and developed to allow for the more efficient management of cases, allowing administrators to track the caseloads of prosecutors, the length of pending cases, the turnover of prosecutor cases, disposition and dismissal rates, and to allow management to run reports with ease. The CMS also allows for the digital replication of criminal files, promoting more efficient record keeping, online access to files for permitted users, and a backup file system. Furthermore, the system enables prosecutors to easily cross reference defendants in criminal cases, witnesses in criminal cases and track gang activity.
The year 2012 also brought increased cooperation with and assistance to the courts. Recent trends in criminal prosecution require division participation on more than one specialized calendar. At the start of 2012, the Superior Court maintained a backlog of 58 sexual offender classification appeals which had been pending since 2007-2009. With the addition of Magistrate John Flynn to run the Sexual Violent Predator calendar, the Superior Court and the Criminal Division made a commitment to address the backlog of cases created in years prior due to the passing of Magistrate Gordon Smith. The court, working with prosecutors and scheduling additional court days, reduced the backlog to two cases.
In 2012, the Criminal Division continued its commitment to veterans. Since taking office, Attorney General Kilmartin has dedicated office resources to a specialized veteran’s court calendar in Kent County District Court. The program, formally known as The Alternative to Sentencing and Trauma Recovery In Rhode Island - Focus on Veterans (ASTR RI), began referrals to the District Court in April of 2011. Since then, a prosecutor has been dedicated to this calendar and as of December 31, 2012, approximately 101 referrals have been made to the court, with all but 22 accepted. Forty-one offenders have successfully completed the program, with the remaining cases active within the system. The focus of the court is to provide wrap-around services to the offender, who suffered some service-related trauma which has likely contributed to the individual’s involvement in the criminal justice system. Mental health, alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness and other issues related to an individual’s military service are addressed in this court, with the goal of rehabilitation and diversion from incarceration or other criminal consequence.
The Criminal Division has also committed to Rhode Island Superior Court to assist in the development of the Domestic Violence Calendar administered by Justice Susan McGuirl. The Rhode Island Superior Court, at the direction of Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney, created a domestic violence court to channel cases through the court and dispose of the cases in a more expeditious manner. Prosecutors from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit appear weekly before Justice McGuirl to assist the court with statistics, scheduling and the management of the calendar. Each of the prosecutors within the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit maintain some of the highest caseloads within the Division; they frequently participate in training of police officers and sit on policy and training boards with criminal justice partners. Unit Chief Daniel Guglielmo and Criminal Division Chief Stacey Veroni have been asked by the Rhode Island Bar Association to partner with Justice McGuirl, the Family and District Courts and other criminal justice partners to present at the Bar Association’s annual meeting in June 2013 on the topic of domestic violence prosecution.