Convicted child rapist appears in Rhode Island court

Photo: Sex Offender Registry
Photo: Sex Offender Registry

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A Level 3 sex offender and convicted child rapist made his first appearance in a Rhode Court on Wednesday.

Richard Gardner, 49, was present in Kent County Superior Court and presented to the judge as a probation violator. He will be held without bail.

Gardner was released from a Massachusetts prison on October 3 after he served 28 years of a sentence that was originally 190 years long, police said.

In 1989, Gardner was convicted of sexually assaulting a Massachusetts boy, two Warwick boys and kidnapping another boy from Providence. In 1993, after an appeal from Gardner, the conviction was thrown out and sent back to Superior Court where he pleaded guilty and his sentence was reduced to 20 years behind bars and 30 years probation.

Last week, just days after Gardner’s release, Quincy Police said he violated his probation by entering a library and used a computer without getting permission from officials.

Sex offenders are forbidden from going to libraries or schools without prior approval under a Quincy city ordinance.

“He was seen by the librarian apparently viewing pictures of a shirtless male,” said Prosecutor Charles Calenda in court Wednesday. “When he was approached by the library staff, they described him as quickly turning off the screen.”

Public defender Melissa Braatz argued that it was not properly indicated that Gardner would be violating his probation upon entrance into the library.

“There’ nothing that says it on the door, or in the room that he was in, or even in the lobby area,” she said.

Braatz also stated that Gardner’s probation restrictions are not clear. “Is he then not allowed at the Barnes and Noble up the road, because there’s a children’s area? Is he not allowed in the Target, because children go there? How far reaching is this?”

Plymouth DA, Timothy Cruz came forward and stated that his office made a mistake and failed to declare Gardner a sexually dangerous person and to send him to a treatment facility.

In a statement, Cruz said:

Our SPD Unit was notified of Mr. Gardner’s anticipated release in April by an email from the Department of Corrections. Our office did not move to civilly commit Mr. Gardner. Senior officials in my office conducted a comprehensive review of this case and determined that happened as a result of human erro. This was an isolated incident, and our office immediately implemented further checks and balances to strengthen the notification process.”

A determination of attorney hearing is set for October 26. A probation violation hearing is scheduled for November 1.

Court documents stated that Gardner was convicted of raping a Massachusetts boy in the woods in 1987. While awaiting sentencing, Gardner committed a series of criminal acts all within two days. First, he took a 10-year-old from his Warwick bedroom at knifepoint and sexually assaulted him in a field. Gardner also took a six-year-old from a Warwick library, tied him to a tree and assaulted him during that time. Police also accused him of kidnapping a Providence boy but said he never molested the child.