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Friends, relatives help Cianci celebrate release from custody

Vincent Cianci, former Providence mayor, attended the WaterFire event yesterday after being freeed from US custody. Vincent Cianci, former Providence mayor, attended the WaterFire event yesterday after being freeed from US custody. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/associated press)

PROVIDENCE -- Former Providence mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci celebrated his release from federal custody with a visit to this city's Italian neighborhood, where he is still beloved despite a corruption conviction that forced him from office five years ago.

Cianci spent Friday afternoon at the Old Canteen restaurant in Federal Hill, where his small group of companions included his attorney and friend Charles Mansolillo, and his nephew, Brad Turchetta. He did not wear his trademark toupee, and appeared mostly bald, except for close-cropped hair around the sides and top.

The usually gregarious Cianci offered no comment as he left the restaurant. He entered a silver Mercedes sports car, which drove him away.

"He knows the interest is there," Mansolillo told reporters and news cameras waiting outside the restaurant. "He just believes the world can wait."

Cianci dined on haddock with a side of broccoli rabe and shared stories about life in prison, especially the difference between jail food and fine Italian fare, Mansolillo said.

"The dining event today was a special event for him," he said. "He really hasn't enjoyed a restaurant dining experience for four and a half years."

Cianci attended yesterday's WaterFire event, a top attraction in Providence that began during his administration. He did not wear a hair piece during the public appearances. Cianci left the restaurant Friday in a baseball cap.

Cianci was convicted in 2002 of a single count of racketeering conspiracy after more than two decades as mayor.

He served more than four years in the federal prison at Fort Dix, N.J., and was released to a halfway house in May. He moved to home confinement at his nephew's house in East Greenwich last month and was required to wear an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet.

Cianci arrived at the Barnstable Sheriff's Office about 10:30 a.m. Friday, and staff there removed his bracelet, Sheriff James Cummings said. The Barnstable sheriff handles monitoring of federal home confinement sentences in southeastern New England.

Cianci was first elected as a Republican in 1974 but was forced to resign 10 years later when he pleaded no contest to assaulting a man he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife. He went on to become a successful radio talk show host and was reelected in 1990 as an independent, serving as mayor until his sentencing.

Cianci has kept quiet since his release from prison and has not spoken publicly about what he plans to do for a living. But Mansolillo said he has been in contact with radio stations about resuming his role as a talk-show host, a job he returned to shortly before he went to prison.

He also has spoken with literary agents about a book deal, Mansolillo said.

Cianci's recent low profile is in marked contrast to the celebrity status he enjoyed as mayor. He unabashedly touted the city's virtues and its downtown renaissance, promoting Providence as a regular guest on Don Imus' radio show and appearing at everything from neighborhood barbecues to art openings -- events other big-city mayors would have dismissed as too minor.

But his legacy is tainted by a federal criminal case that depicted his administration as rife with corruption, where bribes were exchanged for jobs and a pay-to-play culture ran unchecked.