PROVIDENCE — A corrupt former Rhode Island mayor was freed from prison early Friday as part of a complicated deal struck with federal and state prosecutors after an appeals court threw his 2012 conviction into question.
Charles Moreau, former mayor of the financially troubled city of Central Falls, was released after first pleading guilty to a new charge of accepting a bribe, then being sentenced on that charge to time served. US District Court Judge John McConnell then vacated Moreau’s 2012 conviction, allowing him to walk free.
He served just under one year of a two-year sentence. McConnell also sentenced him to three years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine, the same terms as his previous sentence.
Moreau pleaded guilty in November 2012 to accepting a gratuity by an official receiving federal funds, admitting as part of a plea deal that he accepted a furnace and home renovations from a businessman who received a lucrative city contract. Moreau reported to prison in March 2013.
But in June 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found in an unrelated case involving an official from Puerto Rico that it is not a crime for a government official to accept gratuities. A gratuity is a reward for a future or past act, as opposed to a bribe, which is a quid pro quo meant to influence an official.
Other appeals courts have said that accepting gratuities is a crime, but the US District Court in Providence is in the First Circuit.
In light of the decision, Moreau’s lawyer moved this month to vacate his gratuity conviction. Prosecutors agreed not to stand in the way as long as he pleaded guilty to the bribery charge. They also said in court papers that they did not concede that Moreau’s gratuities conviction was invalid.
Central Falls is the state’s smallest city, measuring just over one square mile in size.
It is a few miles north of
Moreau was first elected in 2003, and he presided over the city as it slid into financial problems. The state appointed a receiver to take over the city in 2010, and Moreau was stripped of most of his duties. In 2011, the city became the first in Rhode Island to declare municipal bankruptcy.
Moreau resigned in September 2012, the same day prosecutors submitted his agreement to plead guilty to the gratuities charge.
The contractor, Michael Bouthillette, pleaded guilty to the same charge and is serving a sentence of 2,000 hours of community service, the equivalent of working unpaid full time for a year.