- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The brother of U.S. Rep. David Cicilline has his law license back, 5 ½ years after losing it for orchestrating a courthouse corruption scheme.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court reinstated John M. Cicilline’s law license Thursday.

In a decision, the court wrote that while he engaged in serious criminal and ethical misconduct, his conviction arose from a “misguided effort to assist a client” who he believed was facing an unduly harsh punishment under the sentencing guidelines for nonviolent marijuana dealers.

“We believe that he has been rehabilitated,” the court wrote.

The court also said that Cicilline “received no financial benefit” from the scheme, although the indictment to which he pleaded guilty said he received a payment of $15,000, and pressured his client for more money. A court spokesman said Friday that it was the understanding of the court’s disciplinary counsel that the $15,000 was a fee Cicilline had been previously owed, and he was ordered to pay it back as restitution as part of his sentence.

The decision was not unanimous on the five-member court. Justice William Robinson dissented, although he did not detail his specific objections. Justice Gilbert Indeglia abstained.

Cicilline pleaded guilty in 2008 in a federal court in Boston to charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Since being released, he has held a series of jobs, including in restaurants and as a car salesman.

The 2007 indictment said the plot began when police caught a married couple with marijuana and about $1.3 million in cash. Their lawyers, Cicilline and Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., explained that if the clients paid them more than $100,000, they would arrange to feed information about drug deals to federal prosecutors. That cooperation would then be used to reduce their sentences.

Along the way, the couple began cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston and began secretly recording conversations with their lawyers.

The state Supreme Court directed that Cicilline’s practice be monitored for two years. He will practice with his father, noted criminal defense lawyer Jack Cicilline.

The court noted that it received 80 letters from lawyers supporting Cicilline’s request to be reinstated. They included former Attorney General Patrick Lynch and many prominent members of the bar. Jack Cicilline told the court that his son had lost his wife, his home and every other earthly possession, as well as suffered public humiliation. He said his experience was guaranteed to “keep him on the straight and narrow forever.”

Rep. Cicilline said in a brief statement that he was very happy for his brother. John Cicilline did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

While John Cicilline may now practice law in state courts, he is still disbarred in the federal court, said David DiMarzio, clerk of the court for U.S. District Court in Providence.

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