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Donovan felony charges dropped

Felony charges against Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan have been dropped after his arrest on June 25 for operating a vehicle and carrying a weapon while intoxicated. Donovan, 43, is in the middle of serving his seventh term on the City Council.

During a phone interview Friday, Donovan said he doesn’t plan on resigning and will seek re-election next year. He also said he is working on putting the arrest behind him.

“Every day that goes by I feel a little bit better because of the support from friends and family through this journey,” Donovan said.

In an email, Donovan expressed regret of his actions. He also offered an apology. (The complete text of his letter appears on today’s editorial page.)

“I made a serious error in judgment by having dinner and several beers with friends while watching the Boston Bruins Championship game and subsequently driving home,” he wrote. “I am not happy with my decision and I am thankful that no one was hurt. I respect our judicial system and understand that a decision of that nature comes with consequences, which I have accepted…It was a major error in judgment on my part that will never happen again.”

The Warwick Police Department, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, dismissed the weapons charge, as the AG entered into a plea agreement after reviewing investigative reports. However, Donovan pled guilty to refusing a Breathalyzer test for alcohol, along with motor vehicle violations such as speeding and driving with an expired registration. He is responsible for completing a DUI education class, a three-month license suspension and $780.50 in fines and legal fees.

Donovan is also accountable for 10 hours of community service. He is looking into a few options, such as volunteering at the Shriners Hospital or the Hadde Ide Chaffee Home.

“I want to do something of value; I don’t want to do it just to get it over with,” he said.

In terms of the weapons charge, Donovan was in possession of a 9mm Ruger P95 semiautomatic handgun the night of the infraction. He said he and his wife purchased the “brand new legally owned firearm” from Post Road Guns in Cranston three months prior to his arrest after taking the proper required tests and background checks and receiving a blue card. They wanted to protect their family in the event of a home invasion. But the couple changed their minds, and Donovan planned to return it.

“Unfortunately, instead of going right to the store, I went out with friends to watch the Bruins game with the intent to return it the next day,” Donovan wrote. “I do believe it is important to note that this firearm was brand new, still in its case, never used, and no ammunition was ever bought for it. There was never any ill intent or anything nefarious surrounding this matter.”

Donovan realizes the arrest made him “look bad” but also said he knows people will support him as well as “hate” him. The fact that the felony charges were dropped seems suspicious to Car Tax Revolt leader Rob Cote. Cote believes the situation “stinks of filthy, corrupt politics.” He plans to create and distribute flyers and initiate an online petition and email campaign calling for Donovan’s resignation.

“This is clearly a cover-up,” said Cote, a Ward 7 resident. “They never assigned the felony to Superior Court, which means the AG had to consult with the Warwick Police to wash out the gun charge. They arraigned him in District Court. He pled guilty to DUI and they threw out the felony? That’s like saying, ‘If you give me your lollypop, I’ll get you a Ferrari.’ If anybody believes there wasn’t a deal made they are very, very naive.”

Cote went on to say that he finds it interesting that the initial police report lists that when Donovan was asked for his phone number he provided 401-738-2000, which is used for all city departments.

Cote also said the WPD would not have initially charged Donovan had they not thought there was significant evidence. According to a police report, Officer Jamey Petit observed Donovan’s vehicle straddling lanes and going 56 miles per hour at 12:45 a.m. on Jefferson Boulevard, a road with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour.

Upon pulling Donovan over, Petit noted that he “immediately detected the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from [Donovan’s] breath.” He observed that Donovan’s speech was slurred and his eyes were “extremely bloodshot and watery.” The gun was tucked under his passenger seat.

“How much more did they need to prosecute him?” Cote said. “The statute clearly says if you’re under the influence or intoxicated and in possession of a gun it’s a felony.”

Cote is referring to a Rhode Island statute that reads, “It is unlawful to carry or transport any firearm in this state when intoxicated or under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs.”

Instead of being issued a felony charge with jail time, Donovan received minimum sanctions, or the lowest form of punishment if charged with a DUI. For a first refusal, the offender’s license is to be suspended for six months to one year and be liable to pay a fine of $200 to $500. Additionally, they must attend a course on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and complete 10 to 60 hours of community service. As noted, Donovan is set to take a class, complete 10 hours of community service, plus pay fines.

“I’m disgusted,” said Cote. “It just goes to show that the laws do not apply equally to the elected official as to the private citizen because there is no way any private citizen would have this dismissed. It seems that making this breech of judgment disqualifies him from representing the general public. If he was a responsible person, he would resign from office because he no longer has the confidence of residents. I’m not happy about this, and I’ve spoken to a lot of people who agree.”

In response, Donovan wrote that he is conscious of the fact that people will criticize him. Still, he is choosing to focus on the future.

“I understand that there are many trials and tribulations as we go through this world with many ups and downs, and by no means do I claim to be perfect,” he wrote. “I want to promise to all who are concerned that I accept my responsibility and welcome my new role of moving forward in a positive fashion. I ask that those who judge me do so not by my ability to fail but my ability to move forward in a positive manner.”

But Cote thinks it’s an even bigger issue than Donovan realizes. During the past year, said Cote, the Democratic Party presented numerous gun bills to the AG, many of which were supported by the AG, state police, ranking Democrats and multiple municipalities throughout the state.

“The Donovan issue is a perfect example of why Rhode Island does not need any new gun laws,” he said. “Clearly, the existing guns laws are not being executed.”

Neither the Warwick Police Department nor the AG returned calls concerning this story.


Comments
7 comments on this item

Let's see. The guy buys a gun (legally). One day he decides he doesn't want the gun and, in the process of returning said gun, drives to a friend's house and gets hammered. Leaves the friend's house drunk and speeds erratically down Jefferson Blvd. When finally pulled over, refuses a breathalyzer. And the felony charges are DROPPED?!

The next time you wonder why major corporations shy away from RI due to it's legendary depth of corruption, re-read this story.

Seriously, is anyone really surprised about the outcome. I don't understand why they did not drop the DUI charges as well! Typical political BS that we have come to accept by not voting out these idiots every election. We only have ourselves to blame because by re-electing them we are enabling them and their outrageous behavior.

Those who are closest to the matter, Mr. Donovan, the Judiciary and the AG all agreed on the disposition.

Mr. Cote shows a lack of respect for the judicial system and those involved to make the right decisions. Plea agreements are standard, especially when the facts at arraignment or pre-trial don't substantiate the charges. Mr. Cote forgets that in America, one is presumed not guilty until proven so. Is incredible that Rob Cote would take the personal time to seek a higher level of prosecution than is warranted.

Perhaps next time Rob Cote is arrested, he will be treated the way he wished others be treated.

HOW MANY GALLONS OF GASOLINE IN THE SEPTIC SYSTEM AND HOW DID IT GET THERE?

PROVIDENCE: A Warwick man was arrested today for allegedly disposing of gasoline by pouring it down the drain at his business. Robert Cote, 39, of 12 Social Drive in Warwick, was arrested by DEM Officers at his place of business and arraigned before Judge Walter Gorman in 6th Division District Court in Warwick. He was charged with a single count of unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste. Cote entered no plea, as typically occurs in felony cases. He was released on $5,000 personal recognizance and faces an arraignment in Superior Court on August 14. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. The RI Attorney General's Office will be prosecuting the case.

According to Sr. Agent Giusto Iannelli, of DEM's Office of Criminal Investigation, the Warwick Fire Department was called to Cote's business, the Pro Divers Shop at 2442 West Shore Road, on April 30 after a neighbor in an adjacent strip mall heard an explosion and observed smoke coming from the dive shop. The fire department responded and extinguished the fire, but an officer at the scene noticed a heavy smell of gasoline coming from the facility. Cote admitted to placing a container with less than a gallon of gasoline in a sink to see if the gasoline was contaminated. Cote claimed that the fumes from the gasoline were ignited by a spark from a hot water heater.

The fire officer at the scene called DEM to determine if there was a remaining hazard. John Leo, a Sanitary Engineer with DEM's Emergency Response Unit, responded and found that a considerable amount of gasoline was present in the septic system. Leo determined that the situation constituted a threat to public safety and the environment, and he immediately called CYN Environmental to come to pump out the septic system.

Subsequent lab tests indicated that there was at least 20 and perhaps as much as 30 gallons of gasoline in the septic system, enough to pose a significant danger of a major explosion. Leo noted that if the fumes had backed up overnight in the pipes and vents associated with the septic system, the result could have been disastrous.

In addition to today's arrest, DEM officers, assisted by officers from the Warwick Police Department, executed a search warrant and removed evidence from the scene.

ROB - PERHAPS NEXT TIME YOU WILL BE TREATED IN THE MANNER YOU WISH FOR OTHERS. NOW GO AWAY AND MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. WE ARE TIRED OF YOUR RANTS ROB.

"anon" I believe that the charges against Cote were dropped for lack of evidence. I believe the tests showed NO hydrocarbons were ever placed into a drain at his business. Which calls into question the arrest of a politically outspoken person.

If I am wrong, please provide the proof.

Taxpayer,

You are correct. There was zero evidence of any hydrocarbons, in fact what the above poster fails to mention that at the time of the flash fire incident I was attending regular city council meetings and being very public about the lack of training of the Warwick Fire Dept. Dive team which resulted in 4 deaths. The charges never made it to court as the judge refused to hear the charges without evidence. All of the drain components and the material pumped from the system on the day of the event were tested and there was no evidence, because it was a 30 second flash fire in a sink and the trumped up for the sole reason to try to stop me from expressing my thoughts on something very wrong in the city. Sound familiar?

What was interesting was that during the event the DEM communicated that they would remove all charges if my insurance paid $15000 for the removal and testing of the materials.

These people (WFD personnel) can continue to try to discredit and slander me as much as they want, its just too bad they don't tell the entire story or quote the final article that appeared in this newspaper. But that's the mentality. Also, its not that I wanted the individual prosecuted to any extent, I am just drawing an conclusion that it is clear that elected officials do not abide by the same set of laws that the citizens that they represent abide by. Its too bad that "anonsnoinipo" is anonymous as I would welcome the opportunity to have intelligent discourse with him.

oh boy chuck.....this is gonna get ALOT worse before it gets better. cote is gonna make life very miserable for u. lol. you and that pepsodent smile should call it a day and go. prob. gonna cost the taxpayers in the longrun. you've won by the skin of your teeth during the last two elections.

Surely, by now, Mr. Cote recognizes that RI's broad public sector is little more than a large, metastasizing blob of incestuous self-preservation. Tweaking the wrong part of that blob brings down the wrath of government (e.g. DEM) on your head.

"Mr. Cote shows a lack of respect for the judicial system and those involved to make the right decisions." In RI? I'm sure the poster is sincere, but this sentence would be hilarious if it weren't so breathtakingly naïve.

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