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Facing expulsion, Kettle resigns from Senate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - State Sen. Nicholas Kettle resigned his seat Thursday, forestalling an effort by Senate leaders to expel him from office following his indictment last week.

Kettle, R-Coventry, made the announcement in a letter to senators released by one of his attorneys, Priscilla Facha DiMaio, that also criticized Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senate Republican Leader Dennis Algiere for moving to expel him. DiMaio formally delivered the letter to the State House at 2 p.m.

DiMaio and Senate aides were seen clearing out Kettle's office, and his name was scraped off the door by a custodian shortly thereafter.

"After taking several days to speak with my legal counsel and family members, I have determined that it is in my best interest to resign and concentrate on the unfounded allegations against me," Kettle wrote. He said it had been "a privilege" to represent Senate District 21.

"I am grateful for the many individuals who have continued to support me during these difficult times as it is clear that they understand that I am innocent until proven guilty," Kettle wrote. "However, I am extremely disappointed in Senate Leadership on both sides of the aisle because Mr. Algiere and Mr. Ruggerio do not appear to understand the importance of due process as a cornerstone of our legal system."

Kettle, 27, was first elected in 2010 at the age of 20 and has been re-elected three times since. He has been charged in two criminal cases, one concerning alleged video voyeurism involving his ex-girlfriend and the other involving accusations that he extorted a Senate page for sex in 2011.

Kettle's move came one day after Senate leaders filed a bill to expel him from office, an unprecedented move that had raised concern from the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU. But Ruggerio had said he hoped Kettle would resign rather than force a vote on expulsion.

Ruggerio and Algiere both defended their decisions in separate statements Thursday.

"I certainly respect his right to due process, and the proceedings contemplated in the Senate were not being taken lightly," Ruggerio, D-North Providence, said. "At the same time, the Senate has an obligation to ensure a safe working environment for all who are employed here. The extremely serious allegations against Mr. Kettle, including sexual exploitation of a minor in the Senate page program, are unlike any I have witnessed during my time in the Senate."

"I am grateful that Mr. Kettle has chosen a path that avoids requiring his colleagues to consider expulsion," Ruggerio added.

"While I have great respect for due process, the severity of the grand jury indictments involving a minor in the Senate page program are far too serious," Algiere, R-Westerly, said. "We have an obligation to provide a safe work environment for all employees."

Kettle's resignation will leave the 38-seat Senate with just 36 members following the resignation of Pawtucket Democrat Jamie Doyle last month. Under state law, there will not be a special election to replace Kettle due to the timing of his resignation, so his seat will remain vacant for the rest of 2018. His departure will also leave the Senate with just four Republicans facing 32 Democrats.

Former state Rep. Michael Marcello, a Democrat who lost his bid for re-election in 2016, confirmed Thursday he may run for Kettle's Senate seat this fall. "I've been heartened by the number of people who have encouraged me to run, and I will give it serious consideration," he said.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and FacebookSteph Machado contributed to this report.

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