Judge rules against Gov. Raimondo, won’t order release of 38 Studios docs

(AP Photo/Joe Giblin)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Rhode Island Superior Court judge Thursday sided with Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and denied a petition filed by Gov. Gina Raimondo for the release of grand jury documents in the 38 Studios case.

Raimondo petitioned for the release of the material in February, following the conclusion of the state’s civil lawsuit over 38 Studios, the video-game company founded by Curt Schilling that went bankrupt after receiving a $75-million state-backed loan.

Raimondo has argued that while grand-jury secrecy usually means such material should remain under wraps, the “extraordinary public interest” in the 38 Studios saga is sufficient reason for R.I. Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Gibney to order the documents released.

But Gibney ruled against the petition, writing: “This Court finds that the Petitioner has not met her burden of demonstrating that the need for disclosure outweighs the need for secrecy.”

The ruling is a win for Kilmartin, whose lawyers argued Raimondo had only made “meager and legally insufficient arguments” in favor of her “extraordinary request.” They suggested the governor “does not appreciate the methods of the grand jury,” whereas attorneys general have “been involved in every grand jury convened in this state since it was colonized.”

“We appreciate Presiding Justice Gibney’s well-reasoned and thoughtful decision upholding the special role of the grand jury in the criminal justice system,” Kilmartin said in a statement.

The governor’s office did not immediately say whether it would appeal Gibney’s ruling to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. “While I respect the court’s decision, I am disappointed with today’s ruling,” Raimondo said. “I have asked my legal team to review our options.”

The Rhode Island House has separately passed a bill to order release of the 38 Studios documents, but the Senate has not taken action on it yet.

Raimondo and Kilmartin, both Democrats, have clashed over 38 Studios repeatedly in recent months, and not just over the grand-jury documents. The attorney general also criticized R.I. State Police Col. Ann Assumpico, a Raimondo hire, for closing the criminal investigation – although her predecessor joined Kilmartin last year to announce no charges would be filed following the lengthy probe.

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