PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Nicholas Scaglione, the Cranston man who took part in the torching of Providence police cruiser during the June 2020 riots, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Scaglione, 32, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mary McElroy after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit arson earlier this year. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of just over three-and-a-half years, while Scaglione’s attorney William Dimitri recommended just over two years in prison.
McElroy also placed Scaglione on two years of supervised release when he released from prison, and has to repay the Providence police department $52,166.80 for the destroyed cruiser. He has to report to prison on Sept. 14 (the location will be determined later by the Federal Bureau of Prisons).
Scaglione was originally facing a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for a charge of malicious destruction of a government vehicle by fire. But after negotiations with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to a lesser count of conspiracy to commit arson, which does not come with a mandatory prison term.
Video from that night shows Scaglione climbing on top of the cruiser and later spraying what FBI investigators called an accelerant onto the seat of the cruiser.
Veteran federal prosecutor Paul Daly told the judge that Scaglione’s actions robbed peaceful protestors the ability to practice their constitutional rights in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a then-Minneapolis police officer.
“Some in that crowd had other agendas in the peaceful movement,” Daly said. “He and others hijacked that protest. He did that for selfish reasons.”
“He diminished the ability for peaceful protestors to join together,” Daly added.
Dimitri told the judge Scaglione regrets his actions from that night, “his actions he admitted were opportunistic, unplanned, and no disrespect to Nick, stupid.”
“To some, Mr. Scaglione is a villain. To some he is a hero. He is neither, what he is … he is a good kid,” Dimitri said. “He made a horrible life-altering decision.”
Before handing down her sentence, McElroy commended Scaglione for taking responsibility for his actions. But noted there is a stark difference between the constitutional right to protest government action, and what the defendant did.
“There is a difference between protests and riots,” she said.
Outside the courthouse, U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Zachary Cunha – who attended the hearing – said the sentence was appropriate.
“The bottom line is that arson is not advocacy and what this defendant did put the lives of Providence police officers and Providence citizens at risk and frankly dishonored a long a proud tradition of peaceful protests in this country,” Cunha said.
Luis Joel Sierra, of Providence, was also arrested on an arson charge and pleaded not guilty. But last August, U.S. District Judge John McConnell found Sierra was mentally incompetent, preventing the case from going to trial.
McConnell ordered Sierra to receive treatment at a federal medical center and prison in North Carolina. He was released from custody on Friday, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
That night, 65 others were arrested for their part in the violent unrest, which included breaking into the Providence Place Mall.