PROVIDENCE — When little-known Democratic political operative Jeffrey T. Britt goes on trial today for money laundering and making an illegal campaign contribution, much of the focus will be on a guy who’s not on trial: House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello.
Britt’s lawyer says that Leo Skenyon, Mattiello’s chief of staff, told Britt to persuade a defeated GOP candidate to endorse Mattiello instead of the candidate from her own party who was seeking to unseat the Speaker in 2016. Britt has pleaded not guilty to the charge that he illegally funneled money to her to pay for a mailer that carried her endorsement.
If Skenyon knew what he was doing, Britt maintains, then so did the Mattiello campaign.
Of the three men, only Britt is charged. But Britt’s attorney is determined to put Mattiello on trial.
“I think his reputation is in jeopardy,” said Professor Michael J. Yelnosky, former dean of the Roger Williams University School of Law. “His reputation is on trial.”
Mattiello, who has been Speaker since 2014, is arguably the most powerful politician in Rhode Island, and he is among the potential witnesses that Britt’s lawyer could call to the stand in making the case that Mattiello’s campaign made Britt the “fall guy.”
So Courtroom 4E at the Kent County courthouse won’t be the setting for some obscure campaign finance case. Rather, it will be the focus of the media spotlight, and