CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The Trial of Buddy Cianci

Dozens of reporters close in on Mayor Buddy Cianci as he makes his way into Federal Court in Providence for his arraignment. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

Dozens of reporters close in on Mayor Buddy Cianci as he makes his way into Federal Court in Providence for his arraignment. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Bob Thayer.

Buddy Cianci faces justice. His lawyers say he’s the Renaissance Mayor, too busy rebuilding Providence to notice a few bad apples in his administration. The prosecution says he’s just another crooked politician, running a massive corruption ring out of City Hall. Which story will the jury believe?

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Taking the Mayor to Court

In the wake of an FBI corruption sting, Mayor Buddy Cianci was indicted by federal prosecutors in April 2001. He was adamant about his innocence, telling reporters he would "defend these charges until the day I die." Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.

I didn’t do this stuff. I’m not guilty of this stuff.
— Buddy Cianci
FBI Special Agent Dennis Aiken, left, arrives with cooperating witness and undercover operative Tony Freitas at U.S. District Court in Providence. Buddy was tried alongside his former director of administration, Frank Corrente, and businessman Richard Autiello. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

FBI Special Agent Dennis Aiken, left, arrives with cooperating witness and undercover operative Tony Freitas at U.S. District Court in Providence. Buddy was tried alongside his former director of administration, Frank Corrente, and businessman Richard Autiello. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Lead prosecutor Richard W. Rose questions Freitas, right, as secretly recorded audio tapes play in court. Buddy and his lawyer Richard M. Egbert are at left. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frank Gerardi.

Lead prosecutor Richard W. Rose questions Freitas, right, as secretly recorded audio tapes play in court. Buddy and his lawyer Richard M. Egbert are at left. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frank Gerardi.


caught in the crossfire

Buddy Cianci watches as Dennis Aiken, left, walks into U.S. District Court with David Ead. The former vice chairman of the Providence tax assessment review board, Ead struck a deal with investigators and agreed to be a witness for the prosecution. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Buddy Cianci watches as Dennis Aiken, left, walks into U.S. District Court with David Ead. The former vice chairman of the Providence tax assessment review board, Ead struck a deal with investigators and agreed to be a witness for the prosecution. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Richard M. Egbert, Buddy's defense lawyer, conducts his cross-examination of David Ead. Egbert was a well-known attorney in Rhode Island, having previously defended Chief Justice Joseph Bevilacqua during his impeachment hearings. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frank Gerardi.

Richard M. Egbert, Buddy's defense lawyer, conducts his cross-examination of David Ead. Egbert was a well-known attorney in Rhode Island, having previously defended Chief Justice Joseph Bevilacqua during his impeachment hearings. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frank Gerardi.

In his cross-examination of Ead, Egbert called into question whether the bribe money that Ead took ever ended up in the mayor's hands. Egbert noted that Ead was a gambler, having lost $80,000 in the preceding four years at Foxwoods, a casino in Connecticut. Courtesy of Tim White.

There were people in the tax office trading favors for small amounts of money. I knew nothing about it.
— Buddy Cianci

The University Club, located on Benefit Street in Providence, allegedly made Buddy an honorary lifetime member after he held up approval of the club's renovation plans. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski.

The University Club, located on Benefit Street in Providence, allegedly made Buddy an honorary lifetime member after he held up approval of the club's renovation plans. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski.

Steven Antonson, who sat on the building board of review, served as a witness for the prosecution. Antonson said that he rejected the University Club’s application for a renovation permit on orders from Buddy. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

Steven Antonson, who sat on the building board of review, served as a witness for the prosecution. Antonson said that he rejected the University Club’s application for a renovation permit on orders from Buddy. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.


Buddy stands his ground

Buddy Cianci takes notes while watching hidden-camera video recorded by Tony Freitas. In the video, David Ead discusses how the flow of bribes made their way up to Buddy. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frank Gerardi.

Buddy Cianci takes notes while watching hidden-camera video recorded by Tony Freitas. In the video, David Ead discusses how the flow of bribes made their way up to Buddy. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Frank Gerardi.

In his time as mayor, Buddy was a regular guest on Imus in the Morning. The show even held a live taping at Providence's Biltmore Hotel during the trial. Courtesy of the Cianci estate.

He didn’t want to be alone with his thoughts and demons.
— Mike Stanton, on Buddy Cianci
During the trial, Mike Stanton, right, was writing a book about Buddy. Stanton says that Buddy was not happy about the book, which made for a difficult working relationship. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

During the trial, Mike Stanton, right, was writing a book about Buddy. Stanton says that Buddy was not happy about the book, which made for a difficult working relationship. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

As the jury deliberated, Buddy continued going about his mayoral duties, which included serving as Grand Marshal of the Night Pride Parade. During the parade, the mayor spotted Stanton in the crowd, and invited the reporter to join him in the convertible. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Glenn Osmundson.

As the jury deliberated, Buddy continued going about his mayoral duties, which included serving as Grand Marshal of the Night Pride Parade. During the parade, the mayor spotted Stanton in the crowd, and invited the reporter to join him in the convertible. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Glenn Osmundson.


Guilty Of being the mayor

Buddy received a guilty verdict on a racketeering conspiracy charge, but was acquitted on all other counts. He was determined to stay in office until he was forced out for his sentencing later that year. Courtesy of the Providence Public Library/The Providence Journal.

Mayor Buddy Cianci sits at his desk on his last day in office, September 5, 2002. The following day, he was driven to his sentencing in a city-owned Lincoln Town Car. Afterwards, he was driven home in a staffer's beat-up Nissan Maxima. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.

What the hell has my life come to?
— Buddy Cianci
After his sentencing, WPRO offered Buddy a temporary radio job as he awaited incarceration. Buddy co-hosted the morning show until the week before he was to report to prison. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Kathy Borchers.

After his sentencing, WPRO offered Buddy a temporary radio job as he awaited incarceration. Buddy co-hosted the morning show until the week before he was to report to prison. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Kathy Borchers.

In December 2002, former mayor Buddy Cianci leaves the Biltmore Hotel to drive to federal prison at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he would serve his five-year sentence. Courtesy of The Providence Journal/Mary Murphy.


Episode Credits

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. It is produced by Kaitlin Roberts, Austin Mitchell, Drew Nelles, and Mike Plunkett. The associate producer is Laura Sim. The show is edited by Alex Blumberg and Caitlin Kenney. Fact-checking by Mick Rouse. This episode of Crimetown was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Matthew Boll. Additional mixing by Enoch Kim and Martin Peralta. The title track is “Run To Your Mama” by Goat. Original music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, Edwin and Bienart. Ad music is by Matthew Boll.

 

The show's digital editor is Rob Szypko. The design director is Ale Lariu. Archival footage courtesy of WPRI channel 12. This season of Crimetown is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Malinowski.For more on the Plunder Dome trial, check out Mike Stanton’s book The Prince of Providence. Thanks to The Providence Journal, Julia Heymans, Emily Wiedemann, Tim White, Lisa Newby, Kate Wells, Mary Murphy, Dan Barry, Robert Arellano and everybody who shared their stories with us. Providence is a special place, and we're honored to tell a part of its story.