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Kilmartin for attorney general
Published on: Oct 17, 2014

Providence Journal - Democrat Peter Kilmartin’s record as Rhode Island attorney general has been a mixed one, but it has been solid enough to earn our endorsement for reelection on Nov. 4.

A former state legislator and Pawtucket police officer, Mr. Kilmartin created a special unit in his office to handle child-molestation cases, has stepped up witness-protection efforts, fought for gun-control legislation and has informed consumers about fraud. He joined other states in legal actions that have returned tens of millions of dollars to Rhode Island.

Some of his office’s notable prosecutions include those of former state Sen. Patrick McDonald for embezzlement and conspiracy for stealing $163,000 from clients; North Providence police Col. John Whiting for stealing $714 from a stripper’s pocketbook and then urging a fellow officer to take the money and spend it in Las Vegas; Francisco Bonilla, leader of the M-13 gang in Rhode Island, for his role in a shooting; criminal defense lawyer Gerard Donley for conspiring to obstruct justice; North Kingstown mother Kimberly Fry for killing her 8-year-old daughter; and a ringleader of human trafficking in Providence, the first such conviction since Rhode Island closed its notorious loophole permitting indoor prostitution.

Critics have knocked Mr. Kilmartin for failing to mount successful prosecutions related to 38 Studios, the video-game company for which Rhode Island foolishly backed tens of millions of dollars in loans before it went bankrupt. (As a legislator, Mr. Kilmartin voted for the loan-guarantee program.) While witnesses have been deposed, it remains to be seen whether anything worse than gross stupidity and a political system that runs roughshod over the public was at the heart of that debacle.

We will not present his record as spotless. He failed to weigh in against the release of “thrill killer” Alfred Brissette. More troubling, Mr. Kilmartin has been weak, at best, in protecting the public’s right to know about the activities of its government. His office has opposed releasing records about a police investigation of underage drinking at Governor Chafee’s house. He held that government officials can directly charge members of the public for the cost of writing letters denying public-information requests. And, two years after Rhode Island revised its open records law, compliance has been poor, enforcement is rare and a culture of indifference, “if not outright hostility,” to the law prevails in the state, a group of First Amendment and news reporting advocates found in a detailed report.

These are areas in which he must show marked improvement if he hopes to win the public’s continued support and respect.

But, all in all, Mr. Kilmartin has done a reasonably good job as the state’s top prosecutor, and has earned voters’ support on Nov. 4.