Target 12

Well-known attorney arrested, accused of spitting at man in dispute

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Attorney Stephen J. Dennis was arrested Monday, charged in a case that alleges he shoved and spit at a 67-year-old man.

Dennis, 59, of Barrington, pleaded not guilty to one misdemeanor count of simple assault at Providence District Court Monday afternoon. 

According to his arrest report, the incident happened on Nov. 15 in the hallway of an office building at 127 Dorrance St., where Dennis works. Police say Dennis shook the hand of Augusto Campopiano, then said to him “your son is a piece of [expletive], he is a thief,” shoved him and spit at him. 

Detectives William Dwyer and Jonathan Primiano reviewed video surveillance from the office building and wrote that the footage is "consistent with Campopiano’s version of the incident."

Dennis's attorney, Jeff Pine, said the dustup stemmed from a dispute between his client and Campopiano's son, attorney Michael Campopiano, who used to work for Dennis. Pine said there was some kind of falling out between the two when Campopiano left the firm.

"It's clear that there is an unfriendly relationship between the two and that's why I suggest that putting the elder Mr. Campopiano in this position is an attempt to gain some leverage," Pine said. "To me it's a total fabrication. Mr. Dennis is innocent and I'm actually looking forward to meeting Mr. Campopiano in court."

District Court Judge Stephen Isherwood ordered Dennis to stay away from the victim, but acknowledged there could be an incidental meeting because his son and Dennis share space in the same building. 

Dennis was released on $1,000 personal recognizance and is due back in court next month.

Pine said detectives "didn't do a thorough job" investigating the incident.

"If they did they would have asked Mr. Dennis to come down and give his side of the story, which they never did," Pine said. "They are just taking things at face value and I'm not overly impressed with that."

Pine said he has not seen the video surveillance yet, which was obtained by Target 12.

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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