AG Kilmartin defends handling of 38 Studios criminal case

Top prosecutor: 'There is no need for recusal – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is defending his handling of a criminal investigation over 38 Studios and reiterating that he won’t recuse himself from it even though he was serving in the General Assembly when the deal was cooked up.

Kilmartin, a Democrat who won a second term last fall, was a veteran Pawtucket state representative and a candidate for attorney general when he voted in 2010 for the legislation that allowed the 38 Studios deal to move forward. Kilmartin had recently stepped down from the No. 3 job in House Democratic leadership when Gordon Fox succeeded William Murphy as speaker.

On Tuesday, in his first public comments since last week’s release of a huge trove of documents from the civil lawsuit over 38 Studios, Kilmartin said the revelations about top House Democrats’ efforts to help the company have not made him reconsider whether to recuse himself from the criminal probe.

“If anything, I think this has shown that I had no pre-knowledge,” Kilmartin told reporters. “As I’ve stated for five years now of the 38 Studios deal, I voted on a bill that I thought was an economic incentive package with no individual company.”

“There is no need for recusal – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” he added.

  • Tune into Eyewitness News at 5 on WPRI 12: More from KIlmartin

The documents show then-Speaker Fox had been meeting with 38 Studios insiders for months before Gov. Don Carcieri became involved with the company, and that then-House Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino was credited with adding $75 million to a proposed loan-guarantee program with an eye on aiding the company.

“I think what the release of the documents has shown is what has been said all along – that a handful of individuals knew what the money was earmarked for, the vast majority – myself included – of the General Assembly at the time was not aware of any one deal or one particular company that was going to be the recipient of those documents, and I think that’s been validated now,” Kilmartin said Tuesday.

Asked whether he regretted not asking more questions about the 38 Studios loan legislation before voting in favor of it back in 2010, Kilmartin replied: “Right now what if 38 Studios was a great success? You might be asking me a different question. So I can’t hypothesize what I would have or would not have said back then.”

“I don’t think it was on anyone’s radar screen that there was a deal in the background for this,” he added.

The Rhode Island State Police and Kilmartin’s office have both said for years that they are conducting an ongoing criminal investigation into 38 Studios, and Kilmartin reaffirmed Tuesday that the probe “has been and continues to be active.” He declined to speculate on whether the investigation will lead to criminal charges or when it might reach a conclusion.

“I am not going to expediate something and miss overturning a stone for expedient’s sake,” Kilmartin said. “There are a lot of financial documents involved, as I think was shown with what was released. … It’s not an uncomplicated case, so we’ll deal with it the way we have all along, in a steady and thorough manner.”

As for the court documents, he said, “I don’t think there’s anything that’s been a great surprise to us.” He added that he supported R.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein’s decision to make the material public.

Kilmartin also rejected any suggestion that he should not be leading an investigation that involves his old stomping grounds in the House of Representatives.

“Speaker Fox is sitting in a federal prison now partly because of the role of the state of Rhode Island under my office took in that, so I say look at the history of five years in office of prosecuting police, police chiefs, former legislators and active legislators, and judge me on that, not on innuendo or hearsay or talk shows,” he said.

Kilmartin’s name appears relatively few times in the 38 Studios lawsuit documents. One of the few mentions comes in the deposition transcript for Costantino, the former House Finance chairman, who was asked whether he had any conversations with Kilmartin about 38 Studios “in the spring and early summer of 2010.”

“I do not recall,” Costantino replied.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

Eyewitness News has a team of reporters digging through documents to cover 38 Studios: Inside the Scandal. Keep checking the 38 Studios live blog on WPRI.com and catch all the latest reports on Eyewitness News on WPRI 12 and Fox Providence.

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