PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Joseph Lancia, the president of the Hells Angels in Rhode Island, changed his plea on Friday after reaching a deal with prosecutors, and was sentenced to serve five years in prison.
Lancia, 30, of Smithfield, appeared in Providence Superior Court along with about a dozen members of the motorcycle club wearing their full patch jackets for the hearing before Associate Justice Kristin Rodgers.
Lancia pleaded nolo contendre (no contest) to the charge of felony assault and battery, as well as carrying a gun without a license. The more serious charges of discharging a firearm when committing a crime of violence, and assault with intent to commit murder, were dismissed as part of the deal.
Lancia must return to court on Feb. 18 to turn himself in so he can begin his sentence at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston. Along with the five years in prison, he will also be on probation for 10 years.
The main case against Lancia stems from a June 2019 incident when police said he fired a gun at a truck driven by Richard Starnino – once a prospect to join the biker club – who was involved in an ongoing dispute with Lancia.
Investigators said video surveillance shows Lancia shooting at the truck as Starnino was driving by the Hells Angels Providence headquarters on Messer Street. The video – the main evidence against Lancia – was from the clubhouse’s own security system.
The investigation into the shooting led to a dramatic daytime raid by the R.I. State Police.
Lancia also pleaded no contest to one count of assault with the purpose of knocking someone unconscious; two other counts were dropped. Those charges stemmed from an altercation in March 2020 when a Providence police officer said he witnessed Lancia punch someone outside the Cadillac Lounge strip club. He was out on bail for the gun case at the time.
During Friday’s court appearance, Rodgers asked Lancia if the facts of the case were true.
“Yes,” he replied.
After the hearing Lancia declined to comment, but his attorney Joseph Voccola said his client decided to change his plea because “we thought it was in his best interest to do so and he wanted to put these matters behind him.”
Lancia was also ordered to stay away from Starnino for eight years as part of the plea deal.
Totaling all nine original charges against Lancia, he faced a maximum sentence of 61 years in prison if he were found guilty at trial.