Court documents provide more detail in case against Gordon Fox

In-Depth Coverage: Gordon Fox Investigation » (AP Photo)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former House Speaker Gordon Fox purchased a brand new Audi the month after accepting a $52,500 bribe in 2008, according to new court documents filed Tuesday morning.

The sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s office provides more details on Fox’s finances during the years prosecutors say he was using his elected or appointed offices for personal gain.

In March, Fox, 53, was charged with bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return, all following an 18-month investigation by a federal grand jury, according to court documents. He is set to be sentenced on Thursday. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Fox pleaded guilty to charges that he misused campaign finance money and accepted a $52,500 bribe when he was vice-chairman of the Providence Board of Licenses.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Fox will be sentenced to three years in prison if U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi accepts the agreement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan wrote in the memo that because Fox has no criminal history, the sentencing guidelines set forth in a “Presentencing Report” by probation officials put the sentence range at 41-51 months.

Donovan wrote that the 36-month sentence is appropriate given Fox’s actions since the day of the dramatic March 21, 2014 raids on his home and State House office.

“He has accepted responsibility for his crimes and expressed remorse: upon being confronted by law enforcement on March 21, 2014, the day his home and State House office were searched, the defendant admitted his theft of campaign funds, subsequently promptly resigned his position as Speaker, and declared he would not run for reelection,” Donovan said in the memo. “He waived indictment in this case and surrendered his law license.”

Also on Tuesday Fox’s attorney – former R.I. House Speaker William Murphy – filed their own sentencing memorandum asking the judge to accept the three year sentence in the plea deal.

“Mr. Fox committed financial crimes because his financial life was not in order,” Murphy wrote. “He acknowledges that there are no excuses for his criminal behavior.”

Murphy also said Fox has helped “scores of people during his political and legal career.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also said the sentence, even though it is five months below the low end of the guideline range, is appropriate because they could not have used the bribery charge at trial.

“The Citizens of Rhode Island deserve better and the defendant deserves to go to jail for a lengthy prison term,” Donovan wrote. “That said, any sentence imposed must also reflect the unique circumstances of the defendant’s case, namely that the five-year statute of limitations had expired by the time the bribery offense was uncovered by investigators.”

According to the court documents, Fox’s annual average income as a practicing attorney was $72,808.

“Yet, the defendant lived large,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant’s actions reflect a sense of entitlement to a standard of living well in excess of the one his profession would have afforded him.”

The government calculated the monthly mortgage on his East Side home to be $3,800 and his personal American Express bills “often totaled in the thousands.”

“The defendant’s confidence in his ability to manage a monthly $811 car payment, in addition to his mortgage and other expenses, is telling,” Donovan said in the court filing.

The memo states only $35,000 of the 2008 bribe made it into his bank account.

“That the defendant had a ready source of cash throughout his tenure in public office is also supported by a review of defendant’s bank records for the years 2008 through 2014 which revealed minimal ATM cash withdrawals,” Donovan wrote. “In fact, in the years 2011 through 2013, neither the defendant nor [his husband] made a single cash withdrawal from a bank teller or ATM.”

Prosecutors say the principal owners of Shark Bar and Grill on the East Side of Providence approached Fox in 2008 in an effort to obtain a liquor license, which they eventually did.

In the sentencing memo filed by Murphy, he said Fox has accepted responsibility “in a very timely manner.”

“Mr. Fox voluntarily consented to disbarment with the Rhode Island Supreme Court after his plea in the instant case. He has lost his ability to make a living in the field that he has been licensed for over 20 years,” Murphy wrote.

Tim White ( ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

This version has been modified from the original. The court documents were filed Tuesday, not Monday.

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