State Representative Joseph Almeida (D-Providence) was sentenced to a year of probation and a $1,000 fine after pleading no contest Tuesday to a reduced charge, using campaign funds for his personal use, in a case that focused attention on lawmakers and their campaign finance accounts.
Almeida was arrested by state police in February on one count of unlawful appropriation over $1,500. The allegation was that he had used $6,122 in campaign funds for his personal use.
The Democrat from Providence's South Side had maintained his innocence following his arrest. On Wednesday, during an appearance before Superior Court Magistrate John McBurney III, Almeida entered a plea of nolo, or no contest, to the charge of using campaign funds for his personal use.
Almeida, a former Providence police officer, declined comment before and after the court session. His lawyer, Artin Coloian, said, "Representative Almeida is happy to put this unfortunate matter behind him so he can go on with the work of being state representative for District 12."
McBurney prefaced the hearing by noting he was a longtime former state senator, and had likely encountered Almeida at the Statehouse, but did not think it impacted his ability to impartially handle the proceeding. There was no objection from the prosecution or defense.
Almedia was first elected in 1999 and served in the House until he was defeated by Leo Medina in 2010. Medina ran into legal problems, and Almeida staged a winning comeback in 2012, rising to become the deputy majority whip in the House. Almeida resigned the leadership post following his arrest.
RIPR reported following Almeida's arrest how lawmakers campaign finance accounts are not subject to random audits in Rhode Island. Former House speaker Gordon Fox later pleaded guilty in a case involving the misuse of more than $100,000 in campaign funds. Lawmakers have passed a few bills meant to discourage the abuse of campaign funds, but critics say the measures don't go far enough.