High court hears arguments on release of 38 Studios docs


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A decision is expected within the next two months on whether the grand jury documents from the 38 Studios investigation should be made public.

Gov. Gina Raimondo is fighting former Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s efforts to block the release of the material, which she signed into law back in 2017. The Rhode Island Supreme Court heard final arguments from both sides Thursday morning.

The state in 2010 gave former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a $75 million loan backed by Rhode Island taxpayers to bring his video game company to Providence. The company went belly-up in 2012, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the loan plus interest, which brought it to more than $88 million.

Raimondo is pushing to have the grand jury records released to the public since they’re footing the bill for the failed deal. Her attorney, Claire Richards, argued Thursday that it would be in the public interest for the documents to be released. She also sought to establish that the money lost in the deal is “the governor’s injury” since she has to deal with it when crafting the budget.

The court pushed back on that idea, saying it’s the people of Rhode Island having to pay to recover the deficit.

Kilmartin and his successor, Attorney General Peter Neronha, say the release would be inappropriate since no one was indicted.

Attorney Michael Field, who’s representing the defense, also argued the documents’ release would open the door for future abuses of discretion.

Kilmartin said he strongly objected to the passage of the initial legislation that would have required materials from the investigation to be released, even if they were presented to a grand jury. Following its passage, his office successfully petitioned Superior Court Justice Robert Krause to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the bill.

Among the documents Kilmartin sought to keep sealed were correspondence between his office and RI State Police detectives, as well as lawyers for potential witnesses in the case.

Judge Francis Flaherty pointed out that it would be a historic move to grant access to the records, noting that it’s only been done three times in U.S. history. He said one of those instances was the Watergate scandal and the information that was released then was limited.

Raimondo is asking for the information to be released in full. That was a sticking point for the court, with many of the judges saying the move would be unprecedented. Others brought up their view on how the grand jury was designed to operate, with Flaherty saying it’s one of the bedrocks of our court system.

The court is now discussing the case and said a decision will be released in the next six to eight weeks.

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