Metro, News

State senator resigns amid criminal charges

Bipartisan legislation calls for Kettle’s expulsion after sex extortion, video voyeurism charges

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2018

State Senator Minority Whip Nicholas Kettle, R–21, resigned Feb. 22 amid a multitude of legal charges. Kettle was arrested Feb. 16 for two counts of extorting sex from a Rhode Island State House page in 2011 and an unrelated charge of video voyeurism. Kettle was released on personal recognizance on Monday after pleading not guilty, according to the Providence Journal.

Kettle released a statement yesterday regarding his resignation, thanking his constituents for the privilege of seven years of service. “However, I am extremely disappointed in Senate Leadership on both sides of the aisle,” the statement read. Kettle claimed that both Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, D–4, and Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, R–38, did not “understand the importance of due process as a cornerstone of our legal system.”

Bipartisan legislation filed on Feb. 21 to expel Kettle from the Senate was sponsored by Ruggerio and Algiere, among others. Senators are allowed to expel members with a two-thirds vote under Article VI, Section 7 of the Rhode Island State Constitution. This would have been an unprecedented move for the State legislature, which has not expelled a member using Article VI since 1843, according to the Providence Journal. The vote was planned for Feb. 27.

The day before the legislation was filed, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Steven Brown, in a letter to Senate members, asked that they tread carefully. “Rather than rush an expulsion vote, we believe it is critical for the Senate to first consider the ground rules for this novel process,” the letter read. The ACLU acknowledged the seriousness of the charges brought against Kettle but remained adamant that expelling him immediately could set a dangerous precedent. “I don’t think that the Senate set a very good precedent with the way it approached this issue,” Brown told The Herald. “I remain hopeful that if and when this comes around again, the Senate will take a much more deliberate approach.”

Upon Kettle’s resignation, Ruggerio and Algiere released separate statements. “I believe that the decision Mr. Kettle made today is in the best interests of the Senate and the state. I certainly respect his right to due process, and the proceedings contemplated in the Senate were not being taken lightly,” Ruggerio’s statement read, adding that Kettle’s actions were “unlike any I have witnessed during my time in the Senate.” Algiere’s statement also acknowledged Kettle’s request for due process and asserted that the Senate has “an obligation to provide a safe work environment for all employees.”

According to WPRI, former House Rep. for District 41 Michael Marcello said he is considering running for Kettle’s empty seat in 2018. “I’ve been heartened by the number of people who have encouraged me to run, and I will give it serious consideration,” he said.