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Hells Angels RI president rejects plea deal from prosecutors

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – No deal.

Joseph Lancia, the president of the Rhode Island chapter of the Hells Angels, rejected a plea deal from prosecutors on Thursday that would have sent him to prison for five years.

Lancia, 30, of Smithfield, is facing nine criminal counts from two separate incidents.

The main case against him stems from a June 2019 incident when police said Lancia fired a gun at a truck driven by Richard Starnino – once a prospect to join the biker club – who was involved in an ongoing dispute with Lancia. Investigators have said video surveillance shows Lancia shooting at the truck as Starnino was driving by the Hells Angels Providence headquarters on Messer Street.

The investigation into the shooting led to a dramatic daytime raid by the R.I. State Police.

On Thursday, Lancia appeared before R.I. Superior Court Judge Kristen Rodgers for what’s called a Frye Hearing, where the court asks if a plea offer has been made and if the deal was communicated to the defendant. Prosecutors has initially offered a deal that came with eight years in prison, but after conferencing with the judge, the sentence was lowered to five.

At the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney calculated the total potential time Lancia could face in prison at more than 61 years if he were found guilty of all nine counts at trial.

“Do you understand if you reject the offer, that offer will be off the table,” Rodgers asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Lancia replied, later adding. “I’d like my trial.”

Lancia is also facing charges from a separate incident that occurred when he was on bail from the shooting charges. In March 2020, a Providence police officer said he witnessed Lancia punch someone outside the Cadillac Lounge strip club, knocking the person unconscious. Lancia was charged with a felony count of assault and battery and two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and simple assault.

Lancia served more than two months at the ACI as a bail violator for the strip club incident.

There has already been plenty of court drama in the case. Last year the R.I. Supreme Court denied a request by Lancia to replace Rodgers as the trial judge.

Lancia’s attorney unsuccessfully argued that Rogers has a conflict of interest because she’s married to Scott Raynes, a former member of the R.I. State Police. Raynes was a member of the same tactical team that conducted a raid on the Hells Angels clubhouse in June 2019. (Raynes retired a year prior to the raid.)

The state’s high court declined to hear the appeal, which upheld Rodgers’ decision not to recuse herself.

Lancia declined to comment following Thursday’s hearing. His trial is scheduled for next February.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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