A federal appeals court has thrown out the prison terms of former Providence mayor Vincent A. ''Buddy" Cianci and two other defendants in the city's corruption probe, citing a US Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the system of mandatory sentencing guidelines in federal criminal cases.
In a three-sentence ruling Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit struck down the sentences of Cianci; his top aide, Frank E. Corrente; and Richard E. Autiello, a tow-truck operator and Cianci fund-raiser. The court sent the case back to US District Court Judge Ernest Torres for resentencing.
The appeals court took no position on the length of the new sentences, and it's unclear whether the decision will affect how much time Cianci spends in prison. No date has been set for resentencing.
The three men were convicted on racketeering and corruption-related charges in 2002. Cianci, who was found guilty on a single count of racketeering conspiracy, was sentenced to five years and four months in prison. He has already served two years and four months of his sentence and is expected to remain in federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J., while his new term is decided.
Cianci's attorney, John ''Terry" MacFadyen of Providence, said he was ''obviously pleased" with the court's ruling and that he would press for a shorter term.
In his appeal, MacFadyen had argued that, under the January Supreme Court ruling, Cianci's sentence should be thrown out because Torres ruled that he had held a ''position of leadership" in the corruption conspiracy and gave him mandatory additional prison time under the guidelines.
The US Supreme Court ruled that mandatory guidelines violated the right to a jury trial under the Constitution by allowing judges, at the time of sentencing, to consider facts that the jury had not heard or decided.
Hundreds of federal defendants have since filed motions to have their sentences reconsidered.
MacFadyen said he would renew his argument that Cianci was not a leader of the conspiracy. ''There is no evidence . . .that he was a leader of anything, other than the fact that he was mayor of the city," MacFadyen said.
Robert Corrente, US attorney for Rhode Island, said he would oppose any reduction in the sentences.