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Indicted ex-aide accuses Mattiello of lying about 2016 campaign mailer

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Jeffrey Britt worked for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello during his re-election campaign in 2016. (WPRI file photo)

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – The former political adviser suspected of laundering money during House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s 2016 re-election campaign has accused the speaker of lying about his knowledge and approval of the controversial mailer at the center of the case.   

Jeffrey Britt — who has pleaded not guilty to one felony count of money laundering and one misdemeanor of making a prohibited campaign contribution — levels multiple accusations against the speaker and others he expects to call to testify during his trial in newly filed court documents.

“Speaker Mattiello is expected to testify about … his knowledge and approval of the Shawna Lawton mailer [and] his filings with the Board of Elections in connection with its investigation in which he denied that his campaign had played any role,” wrote Britt’s attorney Robert Corrente, who is also the former Rhode Island U.S. attorney.

That mailer is at the heart of a scandal that cast a cloud over Mattiello’s narrow re-election victory in 2016 over Republican Steven Frias. Britt is suspected of coordinating the pro-Mattiello mailer with Frias’s defeated Republican primary opponent, Shawna Lawton, who lost to him in the GOP primary.

Spokespersons for Mattiello did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mattiello has denied any knowledge of the mailer. During a debate on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers in the days leading up to the 2016 election, the speaker said he had talked to his campaign aides and none of them were involved in putting it together.

Mattiello is one of several people Britt expects to call to testify. In the court documents, Britt also accuses Mattiello’s chief of staff Leo Skenyon of asking Britt to sign an affidavit falsely denying any coordination around the mailer.

“Leo Skenyon is expected to testify about … his knowledge and approval of the Shawna Lawton mailer, his directions to Jeffrey Britt and other campaign staffers and contractors about the Lawton endorsement and mailer [and] the affidavit he prepared and asked Jeffrey Britt to sign which falsely denied that the Mattiello campaign arranged, coordinated or directed Shawna Lawton to make an independent expenditure for his campaign mailer,” Corrente wrote.

Britt claims he refused the sign the affidavit, an action he suggested could be confirmed in testimony provided by others he expects to call to testify, his husband Daniel Calhoun and his former lawyer Michael Lepizzera.

R.I. State Police interviewed Skenyon as part of their investigation into the Britt case, but he was not called to testify before the grand jury, which ultimately indicted Britt.

Britt’s witness list shows he plans to call at least 13 other people, including Lawton and others involved in the campaign and creating the mailer. He plans to call his former campaign colleague, Matthew Jerzyk, who also did testified during the grand jury investigation.

“Jerzyk is expected to testify about … his statements and testimony concerning his role in this matter, and his conversation with Jeffrey Britt and Leo Skenyon about paying individuals working on other campaigns (i.e., not the Mattiello campaign) through Jeffrey Britt’s company,” Corrente wrote in the court documents.  

Jerzyk declined to comment.

Others expected to testify include political operatives, a R.I. Board of Elections official, a state representative and two members of the media, who are expected to recount various discussions with Britt about the Lawton mailer.

“Jeffrey Britt spoke openly and publicly about his work to secure endorsements from Shawna Lawton, and a variety of other public figures on behalf of the Mattiello campaign, and about the fact that those efforts were undertaken with the full knowledge and express approval of Leo Skenyon and the Mattiello campaign,” Corrente wrote.

The next pre-trial hearing in Britt’s case is scheduled for March 30.

The Britt case is separate from an ongoing grand jury investigation that has been scrutinizing whether Mattiello retaliated against R.I. Convention Center leaders over a personnel investigation there involving a friend of his. He has denied any wrongdoing.

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

Tim White and Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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

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