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Probe ordered in case vs. officer

Detective accused in R.I. conspiracy

PROVIDENCE -- The city's police chief said yesterday that he has ordered an internal investigation after a detective accused of conspiring with the mayor's brother to frame drug suspects turned over surveillance reports that he had earlier testified did not exist.

The probe was announced moments after a federal judge threw out cocaine-dealing charges against Khalid Mason, who contended he was framed in a conspiracy involving Detective Sergeant Scott Partridge and defense attorney John Cicilline, the brother of Mayor David Cicilline of Providence.

Part of the probe will focus on whether Partridge broke internal rules by storing evidence at home. The surveillance reports were found in his attic. Partridge has denied the allegations.

Police Chief Dean Esserman said nothing in the reports cast doubt on the case against Mason, and he seemed skeptical about Mason's assertion of a wider conspiracy.

Prosecutors asked to dismiss the case days before the start of a trial in which Mason's defense team had promised to delve into allegations of public corruption.

US District Court Judge William Smith questioned yesterday whether prosecutors had other motives for dropping the charges, but Assistant US Attorney Stephen Dambruch said they moved to dismiss the case only because Mason had a right to see the police reports well before trial.

"There's nothing behind the scenes, nothing else to cause us to take this action," Dambruch said. "This appears to be no more than a serious mistake, but a mistake nonetheless."

Smith said he found it outrageous that police evidence turned up in an attic and said he found the police officer's explanation of the lapse hard to believe.

"It's so extraordinary as to strain credulity," he said, accusing Partridge of directly contradicting himself under oath. "It's just incredible."

In an earlier decision, Smith said Mason's talk of a corrupt frame-up seemed worthy of a crime novel and said some of the allegations seemed partly corroborated, but not proved, by the recent indictment of John Cicilline.

Cicilline has pleaded not guilty in Boston to federal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false statements over his alleged involvement in a scheme to improperly win leniency for two clients accused of drug crimes. He did not respond to a message seeking comment.

According to Mason's lawyers, Cicilline allegedly told his clients he could get their charges dropped by bribing certain police officers.

If that didn't work, Cicilline allegedly offered to feed his defendants information about future drug deals that people affiliated with Cicilline's law office would set up. The clients could then pass that information to police and prosecutors and win leniency for cooperating.

Mason said he was set up as part of that plot.

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