June 11, 2015 / 11:06 AM / 4 years ago

Former Rhode Island House speaker sentenced to three years for bribery

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Reuters) - A former speaker of Rhode Island’s House of Representatives who pleaded guilty in March to federal charges including accepting a $52,500 bribe was sentenced by a judge on Thursday to three years in prison and offered a tearful apology for his actions.

Democrat Gordon Fox, who was one of the most powerful elected officials in the state, spent two decades in the House before being charged with accepting a bribe to help the owners of a Providence bar obtain a new liquor license and taking more than $100,000 from his own campaign accounts to pay personal expenses.

In addition to the bribery charge, he pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

Fox, 53, gave a tearful apology during the sentencing heading, quoting Shakespeare: “This above all, to thine own self be true. I failed to do that ... I broke the law.”

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Fox could have been sentenced to anywhere from 41 to 51 months in prison.

Prosecutors in Providence said the three-year prison sentence they sought reflected Fox’s willingness to waive the five-year statute of limitations on the bribery incident, which took place in 2008 while he was also serving as vice chairman of Providence’s licensing board.

“Our aims were twofold,” U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha told reporters outside the courtroom. “First, to make sure he was removed from office, and second, to hold him responsible.”

U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi cited Fox’s cooperation when she agreed to accept the sentence worked out in the plea agreement.

“He saved the government considerable time and resources” by avoiding a trial, she said.

Fox, the state’s first openly gay House speaker, resigned the leadership position he had held since 2010 after FBI agents raided his home and office in March 2014, and he did not run for re-election to the House last year.

Fox must also pay $109,000 restitution, the amount he pilfered from his campaign fund, and serve one year of supervised release after finishing his prison sentence. Lisi ordered him to surrender to authorities on July 7.

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Beech and Will Dunham

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