State Sen. Kettle pleads not guilty to extorting former Senate page

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A secret grand jury indictment was unsealed in Providence Superior Court Monday, charging state Sen. Nicholas Kettle with two counts of extortion.

The indictment says Kettle, R-Coventry, violated the state’s “extortion and blackmail” law in 2011 when he allegedly threatened and attempted to compel a Senate page to commit a sexual act.

The page would later unsuccessfully challenge Kettle for his Senate seat in 2014, three years after the alleged crimes took place.

”We believe this is a political witchhunt spearheaded by one of Kettle’s former political rivals,” said J.A. Dixon-Acosta, one of Kettle’s attorneys.

”If the person he ran against had ‘dirt’ on the guy he’s running against, he would’ve raised that at some point in time,” said Paul DiMaio, another attorney for Kettle.

State Police Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin said he couldn’t elaborate on the details of the case because it was brought by a grand jury.

A spokesperson for the young man, who now lives in Tennessee, said he’s now in the music industry and “no longer affiliated with Rhode Island politics.” The spokesperson said the alleged victim was moving on from “what was done to him,” and would not comment further on the ongoing investigation.

Kettle, 27, pleaded not guilty to the extortion charges. He declined to comment outside court Monday when asked if he would resign his seat.

Separately, Kettle was arrested Friday and arraigned at state police headquarters on an unrelated video voyeurism charge. He is accused of taking photos of his now ex-girlfriend and sharing them with another person without her consent. State police say the grand jury indictment on the extortion charges subsequently came down late Friday afternoon.

Kettle spent the weekend at the ACI in Cranston.

In light of the allegations, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere have both called for Kettle’s immediate resignation. Ruggerio said if Kettle does not resign, he will hold a vote to expel him from the Senate. Such a vote requires a two-thirds majority.

”I am absolutely horrified and disgusted by these allegations,” Ruggerio said. “We in the Senate are deeply shaken.”

Ruggerio said he ordered a review of the page program, and said pages are being advised on how to report allegations of misconduct. Greg Pare, a spokesperson for the Senate, said the page did not report the allegations against Kettle at the time.

Senator Thomas Paolino, one of Kettle’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, said he encourages him to resign and would vote yes to expel him based on the grand jury indictment. Senator Lou Raptakis, a Democrat who represents Coventry along with Kettle, said it was up to Kettle to decide if he would resign, but he would most likely vote to expel him.

”If the allegations are true, it’s very disappointing,” Raptakis said.

The Senate is not in session this week, but Pare said a vote to expel Kettle could be held as soon as next week.