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In 2013, the Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit (NOCU) continued in its three primary areas of responsibility: to investigate, manage and prosecute all criminal cases involving narcotics and organized crime offenses, handling all aspects of asset forfeiture and representing the State of Rhode Island in the Providence County Adult Drug Court.
In the area of narcotics prosecution, the members of the Unit are responsible for representing the State in a variety of court proceedings, including trials, pre-trials, violation hearings and bail hearings. Unit prosecutors also are responsible for drafting and editing documents related to the electronic surveillance of targeted offenders, the management and oversight of electronic surveillance investigations, providing legal advice and assistance to police departments, working with law enforcement on investigating narcotics-related activity and presenting narcotics-related investigations to county and statewide grand juries. In 2013, the Unit opened approximately 74 cases each month and disposed of an average of 109 cases per month.
In 2013, the Narcotics & Organized Crime Unit opened approximately 74 cases each month and disposed of an average of 109 cases each month.
In addition to prosecuting all organized crime-related cases before trial juries, the Unit works closely with the police on both traditional and nontraditional organized crime-related cases. The Unit provides document support and case management on electronic surveillance cases involving alleged organized crime figures and works with police and other members of the criminal justice system to develop cooperating witnesses and confidential informants.
The attorneys assigned to NOCU also prosecute a variety of other criminal offenses. Due to the close relationship between the prosecution of narcotics-related offenses and the use of firearms, the Unit is responsible for prosecuting most of the cases on the Providence Superior Court’s Gun Calendar. Additionally, a member of the Unit is responsible for the coordination of firearms prosecution between state and federal authorities, communicating on a daily basis with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to review all firearms cases and to determine which jurisdiction is most appropriate to bring charges.
Due to the high volume of cases assigned to NOCU, it is not surprising that a frequent occurrence is for prosecutors assigned to the Unit to be reached for trial in Superior Court, particpiating in the case from its initiation through to verdict. In fact, each prosecutor assigned to NOCU successfully prosecuted a matter before a Superior Court jury in 2013. In addition, it is not uncommon for NOCU prosecutors to assist with matters outside of the Unit, including handling violation matters in Courtroom 9, Family Court cases, and District Court matters, such as bail violation hearings.
NOCU continued to represent the state before the Providence Superior Court’s Adult Drug Court, a special court that handles cases involving offenders who are addicted to drugs. The court seeks to help such offenders through an extensive supervision and treatment program.
NOCU is also responsible for processing all narcotics, gambling and racketeering-related asset forfeitures. Proceeds from the sale of forfeited assets represent an important source of ongoing drug and crime suppression efforts of the state and local police. In 2013, the Unit processed $1,247,628 in total cash and property seized, and $1,191,345 in cash and property forfeited.
“To effectively put drug traffickers out of business for good, it requires stiff criminal penalties and the ability to seize ill-gotten financial assets, effectively shutting down the illegal operation. By seizing drug-related assets, we are hitting the dealers and traffickers where it hurts most – in the wallet,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “In tight economic times and shrinking budgets, seized assets can be a lifeline for law enforcement in providing critical funding for investigative efforts.”
Under Rhode Island General Law, assets obtained through illegal drug operations are forfeited and distributed among state and local police, the Office of Attorney General, and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals (BHDDH).
As prescribed by statute, 20 percent of seized proceeds shall be provided to the Office of Attorney General to be used for further drug-related investigations and prosecutions, 70 percent is divided among the state and local police departments proportionately based upon their contribution to the investigation, and 10 percent provided to BHDDH to support substance abuse treatment programs.
Last year, $472,639 in “cash” was distributed to the Rhode Island State
Police and local police departments, $67,519 to BHDDH, and $135,039 to the
Office of Attorney General. Another $595,829 worth of forfeited property was
distributed to state and local law enforcement agencies for use or auction.