PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former House Speaker Gordon Fox has been sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to several charges including bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return.
U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi accepted a plea agreement Fox reached with prosecutors, handing down the sentence on Thursday morning at federal court in downtown Providence. She ordered Fox to report to prison on July 7 and to pay $109,000 in restitution for stealing campaign funds. He’ll also owe back taxes to the IRS.
“It’s very difficult to reconcile who the real Gordon Fox is,” Lisi said in the courtroom. “He is going to have to figure that out himself.”
While sentencing guidelines called for Fox to receive a sentence of 41 to 51 months, Lisi said she accepted the reduced 36-month sentence based on three factors: the fact that Fox waived indictment; the fact that he consented to the information against him, which she said saved time and resources; and, “most significantly,” the fact that he waived the statute of limitations on the bribery charge.
Fox sat with his lawyers, former House Speaker William Murphy and defense attorney Albin Moser, on the right side of the courtroom as Lisi read the sentence. Fox’s husband, Marcus Lafond, was seated in the second row on the far-left side of the courtroom. Others on hand included U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Vincent Lisi of the Boston FBI.
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Fox choked up as he addressed the court, explaining that “I have no excuses” for the crimes he committed. He said his actions were driven by “greed” and “keeping up with the Joneses.” He told the court his mother-in-law was visiting his East Side home when it was raided by law enforcement officials in March 2014.
“When [FBI Special Agent] James Pitcavage came to my house, they were actually on a rescue mission,” Fox said. “I didn’t know how to get out.”
Murphy told Lisi he believed the three-year sentence would act as a deterrent to other public officials – but Lisi didn’t agree.
“Mr. Murphy, after 20 years of doing this and making the same statement over and over again, I’m not so sure I share your optimism,” Lisi, who is expected to retire from the bench later this year, told him.
The former speaker, a Providence Democrat, had arrived at court about a half-hour before the sentence came down and was swarmed by reporters as he waited to learn his punishment.
As he walked into court, Fox said very little except that he was nervous.
“Today is the judge’s day to talk. So, we’ll see what happens. My guess would be as good as yours. I have no idea what she’s thinking and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to know that,” Fox said to Target 12 Investigator Tim White before entering court. “Yes, I’m nervous. But, it’s a day I brought on myself, unfortunately. So, I’m here to deal with it and move forward.”
In March, Fox admitted to accepting more than $52,000 in bribes from the owners of Shark Bar and Grille in Providence to facilitate getting the business a liquor license in 2008, when Fox held a position on the Providence Board of Licenses.
In addition, Fox admitted he illegally took more than $100,000 from his campaign finance account to use for personal expenses, then filed a false tax return to cover it up.
Prosecutors said Fox was living beyond his means, and his owner attorney later acknowledged “his financial life was not in order.” Fox bought a brand-new Audi the month after he accepted the $52,500 bribe, the investigation found.