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Police Shed Light on RI Judicial Candidates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CN) - Background checks on five prospective Rhode Island judges revealed over a dozen run-ins with the law by one nominee, a former state lawmaker, newly released public records show.

Rhode Island state police released the reports it conducts on behalf of the Judicial Nominating Commission in response to requests for access by the Providence Journal.

Thanks to an open-records law passed in 2012 that limits an individual's right to privacy when it is at odds with the public's interest, the Providence Journal says the release was the first of its kind.

The report on one nominee, Timothy Williamson, reveals an ethics he faced while representing West Warwick for the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

Though the Ethics Commission charged Williamson in 2005 with accepting a ticket to a Boston Celtics game from Coca-Cola Bottling Co., it dismissed the suit with prejudice and recently cleared the Democrat to pursue a judgeship with a state district court.

Williamson, 54, had 16 contacts in total with West Warwick police of the years, as both an accuser and the accused, his report shows.

A private-practice attorney formerly with the firm Inman, Tourgee and Williamson, the former lawmaker also serves as a solicitor for West Warwick and as legal counsel for the House Judiciary Committee and the Coventry Fire District.

In 2014, West Warwick police issued a summons after a vehicle owned by Williamson was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run with an unattended vehicle. Williamson's teenage son was the driver, according to the Providence Journal's article.

Williamson himself meanwhile had two minor arrests in his 20s for breach of peace and larceny.

In addition to the 20-page report on Williamson alone, the state police released a 42-page report on the other candidates, none of which had arrest records.

The other candidates are Thomas Briody and Paul Ragosta, both of whom are attorneys; Coastal Resources Management Council hearing officer Brian Goldman; and Traffic Tribunal Magistrate Alan Goulart.

Each is vying for retired Judge Frank Cenerini's seat on Rhode Island District Court.

The Judicial Nominating Commission includes nine governor-appointed volunteers, who advertise Rhode Island court vacancies, sort through applicants, solicit public comment, and obtain background checks on candidate before handing the governor a final selection of three to five qualified individuals for each vacancy.

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