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Former Mattiello aide Britt demands state hand over grand jury testimony

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s former political adviser Jeffrey Britt, who is accused of laundering money during the speaker’s 2016 re-election campaign, is asking a judge to force the state to turn over grand jury testimony related to the case.

Britt, who is facing one felony count of money laundering and one misdemeanor charge of making a prohibited campaign contribution, made the request through his attorney, former Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Robert Corrente, in a motion to compel filed in Kent County Superior Court last week.

Britt, who has pleaded not guilty to both charges, claims it’s been more than nine weeks since he requested the grand jury testimony and the state still has not complied.

“Although the state produced some materials, it did not produce any of the transcripts of grand jury testimony, saying the audio tapes had not yet been transcribed,” Corrente wrote in the motion.

The grand jury – which met last year and ultimately indicted Britt – was investigating the circumstances surrounding a controversial pro-Mattiello campaign mailer that Britt helped create in 2016 when the speaker was in a tight bid for re-election against Republican challenger Steven Frias.

Mattiello defeated Frias by 85 votes after his campaign coordinated a supportive mailer from Frias’s one-time Republican rival Shawna Lawton, who had lost to him in the GOP primary.

R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha alleges Britt met with Lawton before the mailer was sent out, suggesting the speaker would support her anti-vaccination priorities in exchange for her backing. There was then a series of money changing hands that helped pay for the mailer, which was the basis for the money laundering charge, according to the indictment.

Kristy dosReis, a spokesperson for Neronha, responded by saying, “We are aware of the motion and will respond in writing to the court.”

Corrente, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has described the mailer funding as “a pretty underwhelming offense” that involved relatively little money. He has also indicated that Britt wants to take the issue to trial, which could force key State House figures to testify in a Kent County courtroom.

State prosecutors in December issued a list of witnesses they might call to testify during trial, including Lawton, Mattiello and the speaker’s chief of staff Leo Skenyon, who was interviewed by R.I. State Police last year. The list also includes Victor Pichette, one of two Mattiello-connected donors involved in paying for the mailer, who told Target 12 in October that he testified before the grand jury.

The high-profile Britt case is one of two controversies currently surrounding the speaker. A separate grand jury is investigating whether Mattiello’s decision to order an unauthorized audit of the R.I. Convention Center was in retaliation for how his friend was being treated there.

Corrente is asking Superior Court Magistrate John McBurney III to order the state to produce the grand jury transcripts related to the Britt case within ten days of a hearing scheduled for March 10, according to court records.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi and Tim White contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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