PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence former Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson to serve three years in prison, arguing Jackson’s alleged crimes may have been “more severe” than the ones that landed former House Speaker Gordon Fox behind bars for more than two years.
Jackson, a Democrat who represented Ward 3 on the East Side from 1995 until he was recalled from office last year, pleaded no contest in October to embezzling from the youth sports organization he co-founded. He entered the same plea to two felony counts of unlawful appropriation and two misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s campaign finance law and filing a false document with a public official.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12.
In a 12-page sentencing memorandum submitted to Superior Court Judge Brian Stern Nov. 29, the attorney general’s office claimed Jackson committed “public corruption crimes that affect all Rhode Islanders, along with monies that could have been spent furthering the Providence Cobras Club youth track programs.” Prosecutors claim Jackson used his position as an elected official to solicit donations to the sports team, which he started in 1978.
Asking for a three-year prison term, prosecutors compared Jackson to Fox, another former East Side politician who admitted accepting $52,500 in bribes from the owners of a Thayer Street restaurant in exchange for helping them obtain a liquor license in 2008 and using campaign funds to cover personal expenses.
“The state asserts that the crimes pled to by this defendant are analogous and [sic] to the Fox crimes but in an important aspect more severe,” Assistant Attorney General Paul Carnes wrote, arguing that Jackson “embezzled, appropriated and misused over $105,000 donated to and collected for managing a track program for inner-city underprivileged youth.”
Prosecutors and attorneys representing Jackson have already reached an agreement that will require Jackson to pay $117,000 in restitution, but Jackson has asked the judge to sentence him to probation.
“Prior to accepting donations, Kevin self-funded the Cobras for 15 years,” defense attorney Artin Coloian wrote in a separate memorandum to Stern. “He went so far as depositing his retirement funds from the YMCA into the Cobras as well as depositing his inheritance from his mother’s estate. To date, the Providence Cobras has aided and touched the lives of over 1,000 kids.”
Jackson’s lawyers also submitted more than 40 character reference letters, many of which were written by former athletes who ran for the Cobras or their parents.
In one letter, Stacy Smith, a former member of the Cobras and later was a member of track team at Ohio State University, said Jackson was a mentor who taught her how to throw the shotput. She now works in Houston, Texas, and coaches track herself. She
“One of my greatest accomplishments, which I attribute to Kevin, is my focus on the up and coming young throwers, as I have coached youth throwers for a local Houston youth track club for the last 15 years, where I have produced 9 national champions, and several other national competitors,” Smith wrote.
Shaquille Watson wrote that Jackson entered his life when he was 13 after he had been thrown out of two middle schools for disciplinary reasons. He said Jackson supported him financially, gave him Christmas presents and later helped pay his tuition at New England Tech. He now works as a master plumber.
“As an adolescent growing up in a large family with no father figure in the house, Kevin made sure I was going to be OK, Watson wrote.
Former City Councilman Ronald Allen, who worked alongside Jackson in City Hall, said Jackson was always “charitable and hopeful to young men within the sporting arena.”
“Whether ‘his kids’ needed sneakers, track shows, uniforms, rides to track meets, housing, counseling, or just a ‘shoulder to lean on,’ Coach Jackson was there and could be counted on,” Allen wrote.
Jackson, 60, was ousted from office last year when his Ward 3 constituents organized a recall, citing his arrest. Voters then elected Democrat Nirva LaFortune to the seat. She was re-elected this year.