WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A former campaign aide for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from his work on the Cranston Democrat’s 2016 re-election bid.
Jeffrey Britt was arraigned Friday on a felony count of money laundering and a misdemeanor count of making a prohibited campaign contribution. He was released on $10,000 personal recognizance.
Britt allegedly used a donor to funnel money to GOP candidate Shawna Lawton, who had been defeated by Frias in the primary. The indictment says Lawton deposited the money, cut a check from her campaign account, and gave it to Britt to cover the cost of a political mailer supporting Mattiello.
Mattiello went on to defeat Frias by just 85 votes.
Attorney General Peter Neronha argued Britt violated campaign finance laws and flouted public trust.
Britt broke the law by “intentionally and unlawfully disguising the true source of the funds used to pay for Ms. Lawton’s mailer endorsing speaker Mattiello,” Neronha said at an October press conference.
Britt’s attorney, Robert Corrente, declined to comment outside of court Friday, but has previously said his client was being used as a “fall guy” by the Mattiello campaign.
“We believe that the evidence at trial will leave Rhode Islanders scratching their heads about who did and who did not get charged, and will show that Mr. Britt was used by the Mattiello campaign as a fall guy,” Corrente said in a statement last month. “We are confident that the jury will see this setup for what it is, once they hear the testimony from everyone involved.”
Mattiello has not been charged in connection with the case and previously asserted to Eyewitness News that none of his aides were involved in the Lawton mailer.
On Friday, Mattiello exited the Kent County courthouse just moments after Britt but told reporters he was there on other business related to his private law practice.
“I know nothing about it,” Mattiello said when asked about Britt’s case. “I’m here working representing my own client.”
When asked what he thinks of Britt’s charges, Mattiello said, “I don’t like them.”
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