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Mayor Chided For Remarks After 9-Year-Old’s Arrest in Fire

October 29, 1996

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ When a 9-year-old boy was blamed for a factory fire, the mayor said there was ``no doubt″ of the boy’s guilt. Now the charge has been dropped and the mayor criticized for his quick judgment.

Attorney General Jeff Pine on Monday said the mayor’s remarks were inappropriate. The fire last Tuesday destroyed a 100-year-old vacant factory and spread to several multifamily homes, leaving 36 people homeless.

That night, Mayor Vincent Cianci told reporters that a 9-year-old had confessed to setting the blaze and had been charged with arson.

``I can tell you without hesitation that there is no doubt in the mind of the police department that he’s the one who committed this crime,″ he said.

On Monday, the prosecutor said the mayor’s remarks were ``totally beyond what should have been said.″

``I think it’s inappropriate when someone in law enforcement makes statements regarding the guilt of someone and comments on evidence in the case while an investigation is continuing,″ said Pine.

Police found the 9-year-old in the crowd watching the fire and said he made ``incriminating statements.″ Investigators now say he was not involved in the fire. Two 14-year-olds have been charged and appeared in court Monday.

Cianci, a former prosecutor and political rival of Pine’s, defended his remarks and suggested that the prosecutor was under pressure from the state’s corruption case against former Gov. Edward DiPrete and an investigation of his disbanded drug strike force.

The mayor later called the prosecutor to discuss the issue, said Pine’s spokesman, Chris Shaban.

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