A federal appeals court overturned the convictions of two former Rhode Island medical center executives accused of giving a state senator a job in exchange for pursuing the medical centers interests.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres was overly broad in his instructions the jury relied on to convict Robert Urciuoli, who was chief executive officer of 146 -bed Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, and Frances Driscoll, who was senior vice president.
Both faced prison time. Urciuoli was sentenced to three years, and Driscoll got eight months plus another eight months in home confinement. State Sen. John Celona pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with the behavior pinned to Urciuoli and Driscoll.
In August, their lawyers argued on appeal that Torres was wrong to tell jurors to consider Celonas efforts to press mayors and other local officials to direct more ambulance runs to Roger Williams. The alleged conduct, the court agreed, falls outside the scope of the federal mail-fraud offense the executives were charged with because the meetings werent related to his legislative duties.
Urciuoli and Driscoll also had argued that meetings Celona held with insurers on the medical centers behalf should be out of bounds. Chief Judge Michael Boudin, writing for the court in a 25-page opinion, agreeed with that point as a technical matter but added that a jury could reasonably conclude Celona was misusing his official power over legislation to coerce Blue Cross (and Blue Shield of Rhode Island) and United(Healthcare) into settlements.
Boudins opinion in general is not charitable toward Urciuoli and Driscoll, noting that Celonas work promoting or blocking legislation on Roger Williams behalf probably would have assured conviction, at least or especially of Urciuoli.
But Urciuolis lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said a new trial with the narrower field of evidence would favor his client. Were confident that Mr. Urciuoli is not only presumed to be innocent but will ultimately be determined to be innocent, Weinberg said. (For more on the case, see "Guilty in Rhode Island.") -- by Gregg Blesch
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