PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Superior Court judge heard arguments Wednesday on whether she should recuse herself from presiding over the criminal case of the president of the Hells Angels’ Providence chapter.
Associate Justice Kristin Rodgers was asked by lawyers for defendants Joseph Lancia and Lance Imor to reconsider her earlier decision not to recuse herself from the case. Lancia and Imor were arrested in June 2019 during a highly publicized raid on the motorcycle club’s headquarters on Messer Street in Providence.
At the end of the hearing, Rodgers gave defense attorneys and prosecutors until later this month to file written arguments with the court. She said she would make a final ruling on whether to “stay” her previous decision after June 26.
At the heart of the argument by Lancia and Imor is Rodgers’ marriage to Scott Raynes, a former member of the R.I. State Police and now chief of police in Little Compton. Lancia’s attorney Joseph Voccola argued that Raynes was a member of the same tactical team that conducted the raid on the Hells Angels clubhouse.
Raynes retired a year before the raid and had left the tactical team prior to that.
Voccola said they need to know if Raynes provided training to any of the members of the tactical team that conducted the raid, and if he was involved in any aspect of a permanent video surveillance system the state police put up outside the clubhouse years ago.
Jason Dixon Acosta, an attorney for Imor, told the judge it wasn’t whether “there is actual impropriety,” but just the mere appearance that should trigger a recusal.
During the hearing — which was conducted remotely and broadcast on the court’s YouTube channel due to coronavirus restrictions — Rodgers said she was “entirely unaware of any involvement by my husband in tactical team training and tactics.”
Or “Rhode Island State Police investigations into activities of Hells Angels,” she continued. “Or that he trained any tactical team members regarding surveillance investigative techniques and entry into the building located at 161 Messer St. in Providence.”
Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney objected to the request, saying “all the defendants have done is addressed that your opinions and beliefs would be dictated by your husband.”
“Which is absurd and condescending,” McBurney said.
At one point, Rodgers took issue with Voccola questioning whether other members of the state police attended their wedding and provided gifts to the judge.
“There were two people that attended my wedding and I can assure you that neither are members of the state police,” she said. “My parents didn’t even attend my wedding.”
Rodgers is the daughter of the late presiding justice of the Superior Court, Judge Joseph Rodgers.
Earlier in the hearing, Judge Rodgers denied the defendants’ request for an extension of time to consider the recusal matter. Defense lawyers said they wanted to review a transcript related to the hearing her father presided over involving the infamous state police raid on the Narragansett smoke shop in 2003.
The elder Rodgers recused himself from that hearing because Raynes was an active member of the tactical team then and had married his daughter by the time the case landed in his courtroom.
But in her denial of the motion for an extension of time, Judge Kristin Rodgers decided the transcript of those proceedings were irrelevant to the matter at hand and would not have an impact on her decision.