Kettle investigation expands to involve State House student page program

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The investigation into state Sen. Nicholas Kettle has expanded to involve a grand-jury examination of the State House student page program, Target 12 has learned.

Kettle’s attorney, Paul DiMaio, confirmed the senator was questioned by Rhode Island State Police detectives at his home about a week ago. DiMaio said Kettle declined to answer investigators’ questions, which he said were not about a previously revealed probe that may involve video voyeurism.

“They asked him about a different thing,” DiMaio told Target 12. “They asked if he knew somebody.”

DiMaio previously confirmed state police served a search warrant at Kettle’s Coventry home in January, seeking computers and a cell phone. But on Wednesday he said, “I think what they are doing here is going far afield from the original warrant.”

Multiple sources told Target 12 a grand jury is looking into questions about Kettle and the page program, which allows students ages 15 and older to intern at the State House. They are often seen in uniform on the floors of the House and Senate assisting lawmakers with tasks such as delivering messages and handing out documents.

The Senate pages are overseen by Peter Simone, a former North Providence town councilman. Simone’s attorney, former state Rep. Peter Petrarca, confirmed Simone appeared before a grand jury on Wednesday after receiving a subpoena.

Petrarca declined to say what Simone was asked.

“They’ve asked us not to discuss it,” Petrarca said.

A spokeswoman for the state police said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations. A spokeswoman for the attorney general also declined comment.

Senate spokesman Greg Pare declined to directly address whether the page program has come under scrutiny. “It would be premature to comment on what any investigation might entail,” he said.

Kettle, a 27-year-old Coventry Republican, referred all questions about the investigation to DiMaio but reiterated that he has no plans to resign. If Kettle were to step down, it would no longer trigger a special election under state law because it is after the first Monday in February of an election year.

Pare says the Senate currently has 67 pages, but they work staggered shifts so less than half of them work per day. The pages make $30 a day, and get the job by being sponsored by a state Senator.

“They are hired at the recommendation of the senators,” Pare said in an email. “Every senator who asked that a page be hired was accommodated, but there is currently a waiting list.”

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 is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook