Target 12

Police: Trillo hit Mattiello with caulking gun in 1975

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - A 1975 report released Friday by the Cranston Police Department accused independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo of striking future House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello three times to the head with a caulking gun.

The report includes statements from witnesses, Mattiello and his father, the late Anthony Mattiello. Target 12 requested the documents earlier this week when the altercation came to light. Cranston Police Col. Michael Winquist said his officers found the report on the department's microfiche system. Names of witnesses were redacted by Cranston's city legal department.

The report says that on July 21, 1975, Mattiello's father came to the police station and said Trillo had assaulted his son two days earlier. Mattiello was 12 at the time, while Trillo was 32.

"He said that there was a large group of children playing on the [redacted] property when Mr. Trillo told them to shut up," the officer at the time wrote. "He said that they were laughing at each other when all of a sudden Mr. Trillo came over and called them some vulgar names."

"He then took a corking [sic] gun which he had in his hand and struck [Mattiello] over the head three times," according to the report.

The officer said Mattiello's father was so angry he "threatened (in the heat of passion) to kill Mr. Trillo if the police didn't do something."

A detective wrote, "There seems to be no question that Mr. Trillo did actually strike young [Mattiello] with a tube of caulking compound after he had been provoked into doing so by [redacted] who is an ill-mannered, undisciplined little brat who has been a source of aggravation to other residents of this area as well as to school authorities."

The detective continued, "However, these facts do not lessen the impact of Mr. Trillo's assault on the boy, as justified as it might have been." He went on to say that he pressed charges against Trillo even though "it was against my better judgment."

Trillo quickly fired back on WPRO radio, arguing the release of the report was a political hit job by the police department of Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, his Republican opponent. He also argued Fung should now release records about the car crash when he killed a man in 1989. (A grand jury did not charge Fung at the time.)

The violent clash came to light earlier this week when Trillo admitted to the incident. He claimed he accidentally struck Mattiello when a group of boys were trying to gain access to a home and he heard a young girl screaming. The report makes no mention of that.

Trillo initially said he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge, but court records reviewed by Target 12 show he was actually found not guilty in 1977 after a trial.

In a statement Trillo questioned the timing of the account.

“Waiting two days to file a police report over something Nicholas Mattiello’s father claimed was so serious that he wanted to kill me, doesn’t add up," Trillo said. "This gives everyone involved a chance to create a fictitious narrative, including fabricating outrageous witness statements, including from children, which is what Mattiello’s father did,”

Mattiello, D-Cranston, said earlier this week he had a vague memory of the incident, but now considers Trillo a friend. The pair served together for years in the House of Representatives.

In a handwritten statement from Mattiello at the time, he said Trillo also threatened to run him and his friends over with a car.

"The guy tried to scare me by comeing [sic] close to me with the car and almost hit me," Mattiello wrote in a witness statement.

One witness also alleged Trillo used a derogatory term for African-Americans while speaking to Mattiello's group, threatening that he would "get two [expletive] [racial slur] after you to crush your bones."

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook


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