R.I. Attorney General Reelected

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch easily won reelection November 7th over Republican challenger J. William Harsch despite his controversial handling of The Station fire case.

Lynch told the Providence Journal the victory reflected his efforts to fight liquefied natural gas terminals and lead paint manufacturers as well as establishing a civil rights division. Those highlights compensated for what he said was understandable criticism of the Station case. A judge accepted a plea agreement to allow one of The Station nightclub owners to forego jail time; the decision came 39 days before the election.

“As far as I’m concerned, [Harsch] is using me and my tragedy and the loss of my boyfriend to try to get into office,” Gina Russo, who lost her fiancĂ© in the fire, told the paper. “I didn’t like [the decision], but after I took a step back, I realized [Lynch] did what he was allowed to do under the law in Rhode Island.”

Diane Mattera, whose daughter died in the fire, told the Journal that Lynch is either “a liar or he’s incompetent,” adding, “I’d rather vote for my dog.”

“I mean, come on, there’s 100 people dead,” she said. “There is no justice there.”

Lynch was under scrutiny after Kathleen Hagerty, defense attorney for The Station owners Michael and Jeffrey Derderian, accused him of lying about his office’s handling of the defendants’ criminal cases.

She told the Journal that Lynch’s claim his office was not involved in the plea agreement is simply false. To back her claim, Hagerty provided the paper with a copious amount of e-mails between her and lead prosecutor William Ferland.

Ferland told the paper that the e-mails “don’t prove anything more than the fact that I was contemplating a less-than-jail term for Jeffrey Derderian because that was something that Hagerty was proposing.”

“I never, ever said this was an offer from the attorney general. It was her impression by my favorable tone and collegial approach that that was something that would happen and that’s not the case at all,” Ferland told the Journal.

The paper concluded that the e-mails showed the attorneys discussed a plea agreement but also showed they were gearing up for a trial.

The Derderian brothers faced 200 counts each of manslaughter after 100 people died from a fire at their club in West Warwick, R.I., in 2003.