Reported Misconduct Committed by Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch

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Complaint One

Anyone watching Patrick Lynch during his victory speech in the 11-06 election was confused by a rambling speech that gave the Attorney General the appearance he may have overindulged more than the occasion called for. Do we have an Attorney General that should meet with Patrick Kennedy?

Complaint Two

Lynch has done nothing to address the alleged bribery by CVS and Blue Cross. Sure, Senator John Celona was indicted, but then Lynch dropped the ball, and the Feds took over. Under our system of law, bribers are as guilty as bribees. Years later, two executives at CVS were charged only because the US attorney and the FBI got involved. And about these two executives: how could only two executives approve such a thing, without CEO or board approval? That seems very unlikely. The bottom line is that Patrick Lynch was a "no show." Could it be because Lynch once did work for CVS? Is Lynch covering up for his former corporate clients? Is he trying to curry favor with powerful organizations? It sure looks that way. At the very least, there is a potential conflict of interest regarding Lynch prosecuting CVS. How come this conflict was never addressed, such as by naming a special prosecutor?

Lynch has not done enough about the Station Nightclub fire, in which 100 people died. The disaster occurred on February 20, 2003. Using the same "protect the powerful" and "indict the weak" strategy as in the Celona scandal, the nightclub owners and the band manager have been made the scapegoats for the entire disaster. Despite evidence which suggests that state and/ or local officials may be partially responsible for this disaster, Lynch is a "no show." No charges have been filed by Lynch against alleged negligent officials. It appears that Lynch is sheltering and protecting Democratic cronies from criminal and/ or civil liability.

Lynch appears to be covering up for felonies committed by police officers. Three Portsmouth police officers admitted taking guns, but instead of criminal charges --they only got slaps on the wrists. Gotta protect our boys, even if it means a double standard of law.

Lynch did nothing about the Roger Williams Medical Center corruption case. Once again, the Feds had to get involved. Once again, Lynch was a "no show."

Lynch failed to stop Chief Justice Frank Williams from violating the constitutional ban on dual office holding. Worse, Lynch also fueled a massive conflict of interest by acting as Williams' attorney.

Lynch did nothing about the problems at Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, a company heavily populated with "political insiders." But, according to a press release from Lynch opponent Bill Harsch, Lynch did accept campaign contributions from Beacon, its disgraced CEO, and its attornies. Maybe this explains why Lynch is missing in action. The governor has been forced to hire outside counsel to handle the Beacon problem.

Lynch negotiated a very questionable "settlement" with DuPont regarding the lead paint issue, and then reports surfaced of campaign donations to Lynch from DuPont lawyers, lawyers for the corporation that got off easy in the settlement. There were also settlement payments to out of state entities, which is also irregular.

A 21 year old young man was allegedly murdered in Newport, but no criminal charges were filed. It turns out that one of the possible suspects is the son of a deputy police chief in Rhode Island. Are you starting to see a pattern yet?

Complaint Three

June 2007 - Recently, the Rhode Island Supreme Court threw out wiretap evidence gathered in a bribery case against former Lincoln Town Administrator Jonathan Oster. It was not because the recorded coversations were of no pertinence to the case. It was because Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch's office proved stunningly incompetent in handling them.

The evidence was supposed to be stored in a sealed box and put in a bank vault or safe-deposit box. Instead, the box was shoved under the desk of a paralegal in the attorney general's office. And when the tapes were presented to the Supreme Court in 2003, the seal on the box had been broken and the state could not explain how or when it happened.

As Justice Maureen McKenna-Goldberg noted, the state's "laxity and negligence" in failing "to appropriately store and protect the integrity of this evidence is shocking." Evidence needs to be handled with care. That is especially true in cases involving political corruption, where there could be strong pressures on elected officials to misuse evidence. The attorney general owes it to Rhode Island citizens to make sure this mishap is never repeated. The proper handling of evidence is vitally important in preserving the rule of law

Complaint Four

February 2007 - I respectfully ask that the Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch exercise his duly constituted powers to administer justice in the Station Club fire.

The attorney general has claimed that he cannot indict the West Warwick safety officials because his hands were tied by the grand jury. This is not true. Short of a capital crime - i.e., murder or a crime where the sentence could be life in prison - the attorney general himself can bring an indictment.

Further, newly released grand-jury testimony reveals that it was actually the attorney general's office that tied the grand jury's hands, as prosecutors deflected pointed questions by a conscientious grand jury away from the actions of safety officials.

These efforts to shield the officials from indictment make it clear that the attorney general and his staff themselves perceive the culpability of the officials: Increasing the legal occupancy of the club from 253 to 404. Failing to order the abatement of the flammable foam. Failing to take enforcement action against other repeated violations.

The exceptions to sovereign immunity should be noted here: malice, lack of good faith and "gross, willful, or wanton negligence." It is an understatement to point out that 100 deaths constitute gross negligence. Lesser charges than murder might suggest themselves to the attorney general, as they did in three prior instances. Until they are brought, justice will continue to be subverted. - Monique Chartier

Complaint Five

November 2006 - The family of a Fairfield University student who died in Newport after a scuffle with University of Rhode Island students is criticizing Democratic Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, saying they are "troubled and confused" by the decision "not to pursue any criminal charges against those responsible for our son's death."

Francis J. Marx V, 21, who was to give his class valedictory speech and was in Newport to attend a formal dance with his girlfriend, died in the early morning hours of May 20, 2004, after a scuffle with a group of URI students who were in Newport on a pub crawl to celebrate their graduation. Marx either fell or was pushed into Thames Street, where he was run over by a charter bus carrying URI students back to campus.

After Marx's death, three URI students were arrested on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct. But the police dropped the charges on the advice of the attorney general's office, and the investigation went to a grand jury. In May 2005, the attorney general's office informed the Marx family that a grand jury had completed its investigation and no charges would be filed.

This week, the Marx family issued a written statement, saying, "It certainly appears as though Attorney General Patrick Lynch deliberately mishandled the investigation and allowed the guilty to go free." The family said "crucial evidence was withheld from the grand jury" because the three URI students were not called to testify. Also, they said one of those students is the son of a deputy police chief in Rhode Island.

"In a meeting with the attorney general in July 2005 Patrick Lynch told us we needed to get over the death of our son and get on with our lives," the Marx family stated. "We understand that this is the very same message he gave to the parents of the victims of The Station nightclub tragedy."

Lynch said his office advised the police to drop the disorderly conduct charges because authorities wouldn't have been able to bring new felony charges if the students had already been prosecuted for the misdemeanors. Lynch said the three URI students were not called to testify because they had, through their lawyers, declined to cooperate, and he said, "There was no legal mechanism to compel them to surrender their constitutionally guaranteed rights against self-incrimination."

Complaint Six

Kathleen M. Hagerty, a lawyer for the owners of The Station nightclub where 100 people died in a 2003 fire, yesterday lashed out at Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, who she said was lying about his office's handling of the criminal cases against her clients.

Hagerty asserted that the attorney general's "continued denial of any responsibility or involvement by his office" for the less-than-jail sentence imposed on Jeffrey Derderian earlier this month "is simply false and misleading to the public." She said she feared that Lynch's public comments published in yesterday's Providence Journal - in which he claims that "we fought to the end" to secure a prison sentence for Derderian and never agreed to a suspended prison sentence - "are reckless and seemingly intended to incite the public." She said she feared Lynch's misrepresentations could "endanger the safety of my client and his family."

Complaint Seven

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission -- a name that some people regard as an oxymoron -- has decided not to investigate the state's attorney general, Patrick Lynch, over what seems to be a questionable deal with DuPont. Perhaps there was nothing to investigate, no laws broken. But what Mr. Lynch has done certainly raises some eyebrows.

Decades ago, the nuns instructed children to avoid the "near occasion of sin." The whole lead-paint lawsuit, initiated by Sheldon Whitehouse, Mr. Lynch's fellow Democrat and predecessor as attorney general, presents such an occasion in the political realm. An unjust grab for money and self-serving headlines, using outside lawyers operating on the profit motive and not in the public interest, is bound to enhance opportunities for political corruption. Whether this will ever come back to haunt either of them remains to be seen. But the public has good reason to question the wisdom of their approach, especially in light of what has happened. Let's start at the beginning.

Mr. Whitehouse decided to use outside lawyers, working on contingency -- and thus, with a motive of lining their pockets, not serving the public -- to go after lead-paint manufacturers. Although the rate of poisoning had sharply declined, children had been harmed by consuming lead-paint chips and breathing lead dust in poorly maintained buildings.

Normally, the paint manufacturers would have been protected from lawsuits based on such misuse of their product. The manufacturers stopped making the paint decades before the government banned it, and the statute of limitations on product liability had long run out. But the contigency lawyers had a brilliant scheme for gouging the companies anyway -- prosecuting them under the state's "public-nuisance" laws.

It worked (pending appeal). A number of paint companies may now have to spend billions of dollars somehow remediating the problem of poorly maintained buildings in Rhode Island with 50-plus-year-old paint on the walls. And, oh yes: many tens of millions of dollars will be diverted to the clever lawyers who succeeded in this plot. (Is it any wonder that American manufacturing jobs are disappearing by the day, while lawyers spread like locusts?) Except, DuPont managed to get away relatively unscathed. Mr. Lynch, succeeding Mr. Whitehouse, cut a deal with the company, at the same time individuals involved in the negotiations were contributing to Mr. Lynch's campaign coffers. For $12.5 million, DuPont's lawyers got Rhode Island off their backs. And the deal they struck with Mr. Lynch was most peculiar.

The money will not go into the state treasury. Most of it -- $9 million -- will be funneled into something called the Children's Defense Forum, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. This group, it turns out, has a very strong DuPontish flavor. As the Associated Press reported, at the time of the deal, four of the Forum's five board members had current or previous business ties to the company.

Another $2.5 million is to be sent out of state to Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Interestingly, the law firm handling this on contingency for Rhode Island, Motley Rice, had pledged $3 million to Brigham and Women's. It appears, as The Wall Street Journal noted in an Aug. 16 editorial, that the deal will allow money "that would otherwise go to lead-paint cleanup in Rhode Island to be used instead by a private law firm to fulfill its pledge to an out-of-state institution."

The deal may raise questions about separation of powers, as well. Under Rhode Island law, settlement money is supposed to go into the general treasury, to be used as the General Assembly sees fit (with the governor potentially wielding a veto pen). An attorney general is not supposed to spend it as he pleases. Now that the Ethics Commission has punted on the matter, is there any other governing authority that might look into the case? The A.G.'s office will certainly not investigate the A.G.

Mr. Lynch's Republican opponent, Bill Harsch, is asking the General Assembly to conduct a full investigation, but he can't be serious. Mr. Lynch is firmly entrenched in the Democratic political machine -- his brother, William, is the state party chairman -- and the Assembly (85 percent Democratic) will not go about abetting a Republican who, if somehow elected A.G., might probe some of the more colorful political activities around here. That may leave the upcoming campaign as the only forum for exploring Mr. Lynch's deal. Mr. Harsch, who says the DuPont case suggests "a clear conflict of interest and has the unmistakable appearance of impropriety," obviously intends to pound on the issue.

"Unfortunately, Rhode Island has become defined by corruption, influence peddling, and conflicts of interest. That our chief law-enforcement officer has chosen to engage in behavior that is of such suspicion is a sad reflection on the current state of affairs in our great state," Mr. Harsch said last week. The voters, ultimately, will decide whether Mr. Lynch's deal was as bad as all that. Certainly, the topic is worthy of discussion. Edward Achorn is The Journal's deputy editorial-pages editor. His e-mail address is [email protected]


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