PROVIDENCE — The state Supreme Court has upheld a judge’s decision not to step aside from presiding over a case involving two purported members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club due to her husband’s role as a retired lieutenant with the Rhode Island State Police.
The high court on Friday declined to intervene in the criminal case against Joseph M. Lancia., the purported president of the state chapter of the Hells Angels. In doing so, the court let stand Superior Court Judge Kristin E. Rodgers’ refusal to step down from hearing the criminal case against Lancia and alleged full-patch member Lance Imor, 55, due to what Lancia’s lawyer had argued was the possible 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, not once but twice, that Lancia and Imor had failed to prove that she held 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.”
Rodgers also 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.
Rodgers will continue to proceed in hearing the criminal cases stemming from the June 2019 state police raid at the Hells Angels clubhouse at 161-163 Messer St.
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.
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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.