PROVIDENCE — A Superior Court judge has again refused to step aside from a case involving two purported members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club due to her husband’s status as a retired lieutenant with the Rhode Island State Police.
Judge Kristin Rodgers this week denied for a second time a motion by Joseph M. Lancia, 28, who authorities say is the president of the state chapter of the Hells Angels, and purported full-patch member Lance Imor, 55, that she recuse herself from presiding over their case due to the appearance of bias or impropriety based on her husband’s two-decade career with the state police.
Rodgers is married to Little Compton Police Chief Scott N. Raynes, who retired as a lieutenant with the state police in February 2018, after 24 years.
Rodgers concluded that Lancia and Imor had failed to prove that she possesses a personal bias that would impair her impartiality or sway her judgment.
“Chief Raynes’ past employment with the State Police, ending over one year before the events leading to the criminal charges in this indictment, has no connection, real or reasonably perceptible, to the conduct of this trial or the pretrial proceedings that would create the appearance of impropriety,” Rodgers wrote. “Thus, there is no grounds for this disqualification based upon either actual bias or the appearance of impropriety.”
It was the second time Rodgers refused to step aside from the criminal cases stemming from the June 2019 state police raid at the Hells Angels clubhouse at 161-163 Messer St.
On April 29, she struck down a similar challenge raised by Lancia and Imor, but the judge agreed “out of an abundance of caution” to give the defendants additional time to convince her otherwise. She heard arguments in June, with the state vigorously opposing the recusal. Assistant Attorney General Joseph McBurney dismissed as demeaning arguments that the judge would be swayed by her husband to favor state-police witnesses.
In her recent ruling, Rodgers rejected arguments by Lancia’s lawyer Joseph Voccola, and Jason Dixon Acosta for Imor, that she violated court orders during the pandemic by issuing the April ruling. She cited emails in which she twice advised the parties that the written ruling was coming without objection. It fell within the court’s discretion, too, whether to hold a hearing.
Rodgers dismissed assertions that her husband’s previous work with the tactical team would provide him with insight into the 2019 raid, which came a year after his retirement.
“Moreover, any familiarity that Chief Raynes has with the process of executing search warrants, the present members of the State Police Tactical Team, or members of any other division within the State Police, past or present, is not imputed to this Court,” the judge said.
Lancia, of 40 Fanning Lane, Greenville, was arrested in June 2019 as part of an investigation into reports of shots fired near the West Side clubhouse.
Authorities say Lancia fired a shot at a Richard Starnino as he drove his truck by the club, striking the car but not injuring anyone.
A grand jury later indicted Lancia on charges of assault with intent to murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, and carrying a pistol without a permit, the state police said.
The grand jury also indicted Imor, of West Warwick, on charges of possession of methamphetamine, compounding and concealing a felony, and misprision of a felony, meaning he is accused of failing to inform authorities that a felony has occurred.