Colonel: Investigators stopped recording interviews in 38 Studios probe

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In an impromptu news conference Wednesday, the head of the Rhode Island State Police lashed out at 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling for what she felt was his questioning of the integrity of the state police, but also said she herself questions some aspects of how the criminal investigation was conducted.

Col. Ann Assumpico also said she has learned that at one point during the investigation, detectives were told to stop recording interviews with lawmakers. Assumpico addressed the media inside the State House, first with a prepared statement, then answering questions from reporters.

Her remarks were the latest development in the saga over the failed video-game deal, which has now become a fight over the public’s access to documents from a criminal investigation of the matter that ended last summer with no charges.

Last week the state police released a cache of documents from the investigation that were not used before a grand jury, while Gov. Gina Raimondo is battling Attorney General Peter Kilmartin in court over whether the grand jury material should also be released.

The documents included a long list of transcripts from recorded phone conversations with House lawmakers who were serving when the bill that allowed 38 Studios passed, but there were no transcripts from senators’ interviews, nor was there a transcript for an interview with Kilmartin, who was himself a serving House lawmaker at the time.

Assumpico said she decided to make a public comment after reading in The Providence Journal that Schilling had questioned why key players from the deal weren’t questioned by detectives. They include Providence lawyer and tax broker Michael Corso, former House Speaker Gordon Fox, and Fox’s attorney William Murphy, himself a former House speaker.

Assumpico said it was “their legal right” to refuse to be interviewed by investigators and added that she does not know if any of them were subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury and be questioned.

While not using his name, she referred to Curt Schilling as a “lead suspect” in the case. Lt. Colonel Joseph Philbin – who joined the superintendent – called Schilling a “person of interest” in the now-closed investigation.

Separately, Assumpico said she wanted to respond to the questions about why some former lawmakers’ interviews were not part of the investigatory materials released last week.

“I learned we initially taped and transcribed every interview,” Assumpico said. “But at some point the investigators were told by members of the former administration that taping these interviews was not necessary.”

She said instead investigators summarized their statements and those were part of the materials released last week.

“We have no further records of any of those interviews,” she said.

Assumpico said she was told “at the time that Mr. Kilmartin had already been interviewed by a member of the previous administration.”

“We have no records of that interview,” she said. “Why? I can’t explain that.”

Assumpico declined to say if by “previous administration” she meant her predecessor, former Col. Steven O’Donnell.

Reached by phone, O’Donnell said he talked to Kilmartin several times during the investigation, including at the beginning to determine if there was a conflict of interest with him overseeing the prosecution of the case as attorney general.

“It was not a formal interview, just, ‘What can you offer?'” O’Donnell said. “He said, ‘I just voted on it.'”

O’Donnell added if detectives decided not to do a formal interview based on his conversation with the attorney general, “I would have been fine with that.”

He also said no one from the state police ever gave a directive about whom to interview and whether or not to record the questioning.

“The possibility exists that the detective team working this came to me and said the people they were interviewing were not going to give them any useful information so they were not going to bother recording what they had to say,” O’Donnell said. “That they would memorialize it in notes.”

“There was no order that ever went out to state police to not record or not interview anybody,” he said.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin declined to comment.

Some of the interviews with lawmakers were conducted over the phone, according to Assumpico. She said under her administration, “that is not the way I expect investigations to be handled.”

At the same time, Assumpico expressed her confidence in the decision not to press any charges over the failed deal.

“While I may question some aspects of how the investigation was handled based on the little I have seen to date, I have not seen nor heard any evidence that would cause me to reopen the criminal investigation,” she said.

O’Donnell said he stood by the work done by investigators and their findings.

“I think the state detectives did a great job on this,” O’Donnell said. “I support the state police detectives that worked the investigation as well as the prosecutors from the attorney general’s office, and the grand jury that heard this over the course of several years.”

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