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Judge orders R.I. attorney general to appear before him over his tweets

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha had tweeted on Nov. 8 about a case in which a Barrington dentist was charged with a racial assault. Judge Daniel A. Procaccini ordered Neronha to appear on Dec. 5.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. NeronhaRyan T. Conaty/Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Gl

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha has been outspoken on Twitter (now X) since waging a battle earlier this year to secure more funding and new staff members for his office.

But now he may have gone a tweet too far.

On Friday, state Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Procaccini on Friday ordered Neronha to appear before him on Dec. 5 because of a tweet Neronha posted on Nov. 8.

The context was a case in which a Barrington oral surgeon, Dr. Richard Gordon, appealed his conviction on charges of assaulting his Iranian-American neighbor in one of Rhode Island’s first hate crime cases in more than five years.


In a ruling Friday, Procaccini found Gordon not guilty of charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct. Then, in a highly unusual move, the judge ordered Neronha to appear his courtroom at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 5. He said he would address an “incident” that occurred at the time of Neronha’s post (7:35 a.m. Nov. 8) and he noted that the message came as he was deliberating in the case.

Neronha had begun Nov. 8 by retweeting a Providence Journal story about the case headlined “‘A train wreck’: Defense goes on the attack for Barrington dentist accused in racial assault.” Neronha tweeted: “Alternative headline: prosecution calls defense arguments ridiculous.”

Then, Neronha tweeted: “Random thought before 8 am bell rings: in federal system, the prosecution must agree to a jury waived trial in addition to the defendant. In state system, only the defendant must agree. That’s a real weakness for our state system- & should be changed. Victims deserve justice too.”

The Gordon case was handled as a bench trial, meaning there was no jury.

A commenter posted, “Wow, I didn’t realize this was the case. Can it be changed?”


And Neronha replied, “We’re going to try. When some judges never oversee a jury trial it’s not a coincidence.”

On Friday, when asked for a response to Procaccini’s order, a spokesman for Neronha’s office said, “With respect to the court’s request that the attorney general appear on December 5, we have no comment.”

As for the not guilty verdicts, Neronha spokesman Timothy M. Rondeau said, “We are disappointed and wholeheartedly disagree with this decision. We are grateful to the victim and his family for courageously engaging in this process — not once but twice — in an attempt to seek justice. We are also grateful that a well-respected judge on our state’s district court found the defendant guilty, and we hope that gives the victim and his family some measure of peace. Despite this outcome, we will continue to seek justice for victims of crimes motivated by bigotry and hate.”

Gordon’s lawyer, former US Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, declined to comment on Procaccini’s order for Neronha to appear before him Dec. 5.

But Corrente, who had called the Gordon prosecution a “train wreck,” said he was pleased Procaccini granted his motions to dismiss the assault and disorderly conduct charges.

“In my view, the court got it right,” he said. “Dr. Gordon should never have been charged in the first place because he was the victim of an assault, not the other way around.”

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him @FitzProv.