2017-10-05 / Front Page

NERONHA: ‘MY WORK FOR RHODE ISLAND’ NOT OVER

BY TIM RIEL


Jamestowner Peter Neronha announced his bid for state attorney general Tuesday morning at Veterans Memorial Square at East Ferry. The former U.S. attorney for Rhode Island laid out an agenda that includes addressing the growing opioid crisis, political corruption and civil rights issues. Behind him, from left, are his mother, Veronica, sons, Joshua and Zachary, and wife, Shelly. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Jamestowner Peter Neronha announced his bid for state attorney general Tuesday morning at Veterans Memorial Square at East Ferry. The former U.S. attorney for Rhode Island laid out an agenda that includes addressing the growing opioid crisis, political corruption and civil rights issues. Behind him, from left, are his mother, Veronica, sons, Joshua and Zachary, and wife, Shelly. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Standing on the hallowed ground that his grandfather helped build, Peter Neronha, a fourth-generation Jamestowner, announced his bid Tuesday to become the state’s next attorney general.

“I’m asking you, the people of Rhode Island, to send me back to where my life in public service began,” said Neronha, a state prosecutor from 1996 to 2002.

Neronha, 53, unveiled the news at East Ferry Veterans Memorial Square in front of dozens of onlookers, including his wife of 23 years, Shelly Johnson, and his two sons, Zachary and Joshua.


Peter Neronha answers questions from the press after announcing Tuesday morning he will seek the job of attorney general in 2018 as a Democrat. Neronha served as the state’s U.S. attorney from September 2009 until this past March. 
PHOTO BYANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Peter Neronha answers questions from the press after announcing Tuesday morning he will seek the job of attorney general in 2018 as a Democrat. Neronha served as the state’s U.S. attorney from September 2009 until this past March. PHOTO BYANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN With news cameras focused on the Democrat, he vowed to fight the opioid crisis, political corruption and the controversial policies of President Donald Trump and his Justice Department. Neronha was U.S. attorney for Rhode Island during the Obama administration but was ousted from office in March by Trump, along with nearly 50 of his colleagues.

“When President Trump told me that my work for Rhode Island was over, I decided it wasn’t,” he said.

As attorney general, Neronha said, his responsibility and oath are to the constitutions of Rhode Island and the United States, not the president. He said this country needs attorneys general who have the guts to oppose Trump, including his unconstitutional policies on immigration.

“We don’t have to rely on a Justice Department with shifting priorities to do those things,” he said. “We can do that ourselves, together, right here in Rhode Island, using our own laws.

During his time as U.S. attorney, Neronha convicted former state legislators Gordon Fox and Raymond Gallison, of financial fraud. While those cases were well publicized, he also defended a Rhode Islander who lost $6,000 to an IRS phone scam. Refunding the victim, Neronha said, was equally satisfying to high-profile convictions.

As for violent crimes, Neronha said simply locking up violators isn’t the solution. Prevention and re-entry into society, he said, are as important as prosecution and incarceration.

“We need a real strategy to address violent crime in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We can’t go back 30 years in time and say we’re going to lock everybody up for as long as possible. It’s too expensive, it won’t work, and it’s not right.”

Before laying out his agenda, Neronha highlighted his background as a Rhode Islander, starting with his great-grandfather, a fisherman who emigrated from the Azores in the late 19th century. His grandfather and father, a Korean War vet who was in attendance, subsequently were raised on Narragansett Bay.

“They both worked on the ferries that connected Jamestown and Newport,” he said. “My mother arrived in this country at 19 with little formal education and no knowledge of English. But she worked hard, met my dad, and built a life. And even though they never went to college, my parents worked really hard to make sure that their kids had that chance. That chance gave us everything.”

Along with his experience, Neronha said not being aligned with Gov. Gina Raimondo and the state legislature is a benefit.

“My vision for the office of attorney general is one of service to all Rhode Islanders,” he said. ‘We’ll exercise smart, independent judgment.”

The goal, he said, is for his staff to become problem solvers in the community, not just prosecutors.

“For the past 20 years, I’ve had one client: the people of the state of Rhode Island,” he said. “I am so grateful for having had that opportunity. There has been no greater privilege.”

Peter Neronha

Age: 53

Residence: Ranger Court

Family: Wife of 23 years, Shelly, and children, Zachary, 20, and Joshua, 17

Previous experience: U.S. attorney for Rhode Island (2009-17), assistant U.S. attorney (2002-09), assistant attorney general of Rhode Island (1996 to 2002)

Education: Graduated in the top 10 of his class from Boston College (1985) and magna cum laude from Boston College Law School (1989)

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