A former mayor of a financially troubled Rhode Island city who's imprisoned in Maryland on a corruption charge has been ordered back to his state by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge John McConnell doesn't explain in an order he signed on Tuesday why he wants U.S. marshals to take former Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau to a Providence courtroom on Jan. 29.
Moreau is less than halfway through a two-year sentence he was given for pleading guilty in the corruption case in September 2012. He admitted he accepted a furnace and home renovations from a businessman who received a lucrative city contract, and he was sentenced by the judge in February 2013.
Moreau's lawyer, Anthony Traini, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on Thursday. Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office wouldn't comment.
But a decision from an appeals court in a similar but unrelated case last year found that the charge to which Moreau pleaded guilty, corruptly accepting a gratuity by an official receiving federal funds, is not a crime.
The decision, by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was issued on June 26, 2013, in a case involving a lawmaker in Puerto Rico. It found that it is not a crime for a government official to accept gratuities.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said that a gratuity is different from a bribe because it is not a quid pro quo meant to influence the official but rather is a reward for a future or past act.
Other appeals courts have said accepting gratuities is a crime, but the U.S. District Court in Providence, where Moreau was charged and pleaded guilty, is in the 1st Circuit.
Central Falls, just north of Providence, in 2010 was taken over by a state-appointed receiver and in 2011 became the first city in Rhode Island to declare municipal bankruptcy.
The receiver addressed the shaky finances in the state's smallest city, including a massive budget deficit and an unfunded pension liability officials said was $80 million.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, in his State of the State speech this week, listed the emergence of Central Falls from bankruptcy as one of the state's recent achievements.