The chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court was suspended for four months and publicly censured Friday for bringing his office "into serious disrepute" by his friendships with reputed mobsters.
In an eight-point order by the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline, Chief Justice Joseph A. Bevilacqua agreed to leave the bench for four months without pay starting July 1.
However, the ethics panel said its six-month investigation turned up no evidence indicating Bevilacqua's associations had any effect on his rulings.
"This is the most drastic sanction imposed upon any judge in this country who has been the subject of a disciplinary inquiry on evidence such as available to the commission," said former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, who had worked for the panel as a special prosecutor.
The sanctions were agreed to by 13 members of the ethics panel, Goldberg and Bevilacqua's attorneys.
Newspaper Raises Issue
Bevilacqua, 66, a former criminal attorney and speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, came under scrutiny last December after a newspaper story detailed his acknowledged ties to convicted felons with reputed links to organized crime.
The settlement was apparently reached Thursday night after closed meetings between the commission and Bevilacqua's lawyers.
Bevilacqua has declined comment.
His four-month suspension will cost him an estimated $25,000 of his $79,000 yearly salary. Rodgers said he could not estimate the cost of the investigation, which was ordered by Atty. Gen. Arlene Violet soon after a report published by the Providence Journal.
The newspaper reported that the chief justice met frequently and maintained close ties to Robert A. Barbato and Bernardino (Dino) Contenti, reputed mob figures and convicted felons.
Later, reports detailed further connections with criminals, including visits with unidentified women to a motel that police say was owned by reputed mobsters.
Bevilacqua was quoted in the original story as saying his personal relationships had no effect on his judicial actions.