NBC 10 I-Team: Providence City Council President Luis Aponte indicted
Providence City Council President Luis Aponte has been indicted in a secret, grand jury indicment, the NBC 10 I-Team has learned.
Aponte, who has been under the microscope involving campaign financing, civil judgements and ethics violations over the span of two years, was indicted in Superior Court in Providence on four criminal counts ( two felonies, two misdemeanors) including: unlawful appropriation of money from his campaign account, embezzlement from his campaign account and unlawful use of his campaign finance funds.
The council president had nothing to say to reporters as he brushed by heading out of court.
Artin Coloian, attorney for the Ward 10 (South Providence, Washington Park) councilor, told the NBC 10 I-Team earlier in the day that he was aware of a criminal indictment against Aponte, but had not yet seen it.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, calling on Aponte to step down from his position as council president.
“It's deeply disappointing to once again learn of charges against a city council member here in our city. Providence has worked so hard to overcome this stereotype and today's indictment of Council President Luis Aponte proves that we still have a long way to go to ensure ethics and transparency for our residents," Elorza said. "The charges brought against the Council President are serious and I call on him to step down from his leadership position immediately. Our residents deserve to be represented by council members who lead with the utmost moral authority and these charges undermine the Council President's ability to do so.”
The NBC 10 I-Team in April obtained a copy of the subpoena issued to Aponte. The civil subpoena requests the council president show up for a deposition and produce his personal banking records. That comes after a 2012 civil judgement against Aponte for $139,089 filed by his one-time friend Gregory Costantino, who’s now a state representative.
Costantino accused Aponte of stealing a $37,210 check during a real estate deal dating back to 2005, which involved a house in city’s south end.
Campaign finance investigation
Rhode Island State Police confirmed in late April that Aponte was still under a criminal investigation related to campaign finance accounts. The Board of Elections had forwarded Aponte’s records to the Attorney General’s office, who then sent the information to Rhode Island State Police detectives.
In March, the city provided Aponte's payroll records to a grand jury, according to Mayor Jorge Elorza’s spokesperson, Emily Crowell.
The city council president also faces an ethics complaint for voting on a zoning change to a building owned by a man who was his landlord at the time.
Aponte has denied any wrongdoing and recently filed his own lawsuit against the ethics complaint, claiming legislative immunity from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s reach.
Aponte was released on $1,000 personal recognizance.
Providence City Council shakeup
The indictment against Aponte comes just one week after Providence Councilman Kevin Jackson, also represented by Coloian was ousted from his position as councilor after a major defeat in the first successful recall election in the history of Providence. Residents of the city's Ward 3, which Jackson represents, voted 1,813-160 to recall him as their representative on the City Council.
He told NBC 10 News that he’s done with politics.
“I’m not going to run again or anything like that, but I’m not done with community,” Jackson said.