He’s Never Discouraged People From Calling him a Mob Lawyer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ The gold lettering on the plate-glass window reads simply: Law Office. Inside works Rhode Island’s busiest criminal lawyer - a man who has built a career by representing reputed organized crime figures.
″I’ve never discouraged people from referring to me as a mob lawyer,″ John F. ″Jack″ Cicilline said between drags on his cigarette. ″I suppose to some people it’s a sinister connotation, but it’s done me well. Someone has to represent these people.″
But Cicilline does more than defend people such as reputed mob boss Raymond J. ″Junior″ Patriarca - he befriends them.
Pictures of Patriarca and his late father, legendary organized crime leader Raymond L.S. Patriarca, hang in Cicilline’s office. On the opposite wall is a framed copy of a 1983 indictment against Cicilline - charges he eventually beat.
Cicilline rents his office from Patriarca in the city’s Italian section - not far from where he grew up.
His father wanted him to become a lawyer. Although he originally planned on entering the foreign service, he’s glad he followed his father’s advice. ″I love doing this work,″ he said.
Cicilline put himself through law school, commuting 60 miles to Boston’s Suffolk University while working days to support the wife with whom he’d eloped as a teen-ager.
The balding 51-year-old sees himself as on the front line defending civil rights. He said his small firm, which includes two of his five children, takes ″more than our fair share″ of cases from poor people.
″I see myself as one of the last survivors of the battle against the system taking over,″ he said.
Two of Cicilline’s clients were arrested last month in an FBI sweep. Patriarca and Matthew Guglielmetti Jr. are charged with racketeering.
Partriarca, 45, has been identified in testimony before the U.S. Senate as head of the New England Cosa Nostra. Guglielmetti, Cicilline’s golf partner, is named in last month’s indictment as a lieutenant in charge of the Patriarca family’s Connecticut operation.
That doesn’t faze Cicilline, who said his ″commonality″ with some of his clients has forged friendships that have survived even though ″a lot of them are in jail.″
″I’ve never heard anyone say his reputation has been impaired or sullied in any way because of the company he keeps,″ said Presiding Superior Court Judge Anthony A. Giannini.
″Jack is a very sensitive, warm guy,″ said Dick Casparian, chief public defender.
But when asked about Cicilline’s personal relationship with some clients, Casparian said he had never developed such a friendship in 16 years as a criminal lawyer.
Cicilline said he knows nothing about organized crime. As to the guilt or innocence of his clients and friends, Cicilline said:
″I’ve heard what’s said about a lot of my clients. I don’t know if it’s true and it doesn’t bother me even if it is true.″
Cicilline said he got involved in representing reputed mobsters as a young lawyer trying to build a practice.
″You’ve got to take little risks,″ said Cicilline. ″Risking my reputation is a risk I was willing to take.
″I can’t say I didn’t enjoy seeing my name in the paper with people who were expected to be seen with the best lawyer money could buy.″
That strategy, with a healthy dose of talent, made Cicilline into the state’s busiest criminal lawyer. He takes on about 25 percent of the criminal cases that don’t go to the public defender’s office, according to Giannini. That doesn’t include the many cases he handles in federal court.
Although Cicilline has the respect of his colleagues, many refuse to talk about his private life. A half-dozen law enforcement officials also refused to comment on Cicilline.
In 1980, the FBI bugged Cicilline’s office. In 1983, an informant wore a wire during a meeting with the lawyer and mobster Frank L. ″Bobo″ Marrapese Jr. After a mistrial and a hung jury, Cicilline cleared himself of charges he conspired to persuade a witness to lie.
″He’s aware of the tightrope that he chooses to walk,″ one police officer said, demanding anonymity.