RI State Police probe finds no criminal wrongdoing in Mattiello race

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island State Police officials announced Wednesday they have closed their investigation into how Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s campaign used mail ballots during his re-election race, saying they found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

“We closed it out,” Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin told Target 12. “It was unfounded.”

The decision is a blow to the hopes of Mattiello’s Republican challenger, Steven Frias, who had alleged the speaker’s campaign misused mail ballots and was hoping an investigation would eventually help overturn Mattiello’s narrow 85-vote victory.

“There just wasn’t evidence to support [the original] complaint,” Philbin said.

The R.I. Board of Elections, which had asked the state police to examine Frias’s complaint, is scheduled to certify the election results next week.

“I’m grateful that the state police concluded the investigation,” Mattiello said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate that politically motivated allegations were made so freely.”

“It is time to move on from this negative campaign and as such, I will focus on the needs and concerns of District 15 and the state of Rhode Island,” he added.

R.I. Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell, who has served as Frias’s attorney before the board, said the two would have to assess their options going forward. He noted they are still waiting to review the envelopes voters used to submit their mail ballots in the race.

“It’s not over,” Bell said.

Robert Rapoza, acting executive director of the Board of Elections, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. But an employee who answered the phone at the board’s office said of the situation with the Mattiello-Frias race, “We have no information on that.”

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram