Gordon Fox, who was Rhode Island's first openly gay legislative leader, today pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return, and he faces at least three years in federal prison, the Providence Journal reports.
Fox, a Democrat who resigned as speaker of the Rhode Island House last year amid the investigation that led to the charges, made the plea in U.S. District Court in Providence today as the result of a plea agreement reached with federal authorities. "If not for the agreement, he could have faced a total of 33 years in prison and a penalty of $750,000," the Journal reports.
Fox will be sentenced June 11, and Judge Mary M. Lisi can still reject the plea deal, the Journal notes.
The bribery charge, according to the Journal, stems from funds Fox received from a restaurant-bar seeking a liquor license in 2007, when he was chair of the City Board of Licenses in Providence. The wire fraud charge relates to transfers of more than $100,000 from Fox's campaign account to his personal bank account, a violation of state campaign finance law. Fox and his partner used the money for payments on their mortgage, car loans, and American Express card as well as for purchases, the paper reports.
After he entered his guilty plea, he spoke with reporters outside the courthouse, who asked if he felt remorse. "Absolutely, absolutely. That goes without saying," he replied, according to the Journal. Also, he choked up in noting that he had let down "the people close to me, the people who looked up to me, my family."
Fox, who practiced law before running for office (he will now have to give up his law license), was first elected to the Rhode Island House in 1992. Once a rising star in state politics, he was named House majority leader in 2002 and speaker in 2010, making him the state's first openly gay House speaker, as he had come out in 2004. He played a key role in passing the state's marriage equality law in 2013. He and longtime partner Marcus LaFond married that year.