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Lawyer in RI corruption case plans not to testify

March 31, 2011

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A lawyer accused of facilitating bribes in a scheme involving three former North Providence town councilmen intends not to testify at his trial, according a pre-trial memorandum his attorney filed in federal court Thursday.

Prosecutors say Robert Ciresi acted as a middleman for one bribe and helped set up another. Ciresi has denied the charges.

Ciresi's attorney, John Cicilline, argued in Thursday's court filing that taped conversations with one of the town councilmen, John Zambarano, are inadmissible because Zambarano will not be available for cross-examination as a witness.

Case law permits the use of Zambarano's recorded statements in court because they identify participants in a conspiracy, prosecutors said in a court filing.

Prosecutors say Zambarano was recorded talking in great detail about the bribery scheme with an unidentified cooperating witness who was on the town council with him.

The ex-councilmen -- Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield and Raymond Douglas III -- pleaded guilty last month to soliciting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for votes to approve zoning and licensing changes.

A North Providence developer, Edward Imondi, pleaded guilty to facilitating one of the bribes.

Prosecutors say Ciresi got one of his clients -- a developer planning to build a supermarket -- to pay a $25,000 bribe in exchange for a town council vote to rezone the property he was developing for commercial use. He is also accused of delivering the bribe to Zambarano in a parking lot of an Italian restaurant in Cranston, R.I.

In addition, Ciresi put the former councilmen in touch with Imondi, who facilitated a bribe to get a mill development built, according to the charges against him.

Ciresi is charged with bribery, extortion and conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge. Bribery and extortion carry sentences up to 10 years and 20 years in prison, respectively.