PROVIDENCE — Superior Court Judge Netti Vogel will reconsider the two-year sentence she gave to a North Smithfield man for swearing in her courtroom in 2017, according to a ruling last week in Rhode Island Supreme Court.
Joseph Lamontagne, 67, appealed Vogel’s decision arguing the sentence was “unlawful and unconstitutional.”
On Friday, June 5, the higher court upheld Vogel’s criminal contempt finding, but sent the case back to the judge for reconsideration of the two-year sentence.
According to reports on the case this week, Lamontagne first appeared before Vogel in July of 2017 after he was convicted of first-degree robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.
During sentencing, Vogel deemed Lamontagne a poor candidate for rehabilitation due to his age and criminal record. She sentenced him to 35-years, with 23 years to serve in her ruling, exceeding benchmarks for the charges.
The North Smithfield man responded with an expletive, and the judge, in turn, found him in contempt of court, sentencing him to a consecutive three years at the Adult Correctional Institutions.
After Lamontagne apologized, Vogel took one year off of the three consecutive.
Represented by lawyer Camille McKenna, Lamontagne argued on Friday that his conduct did not obstruct court proceedings, and wasn’t flagrantly disrespectful to Vogel. The defense also stated that Lamontagne was denied a chance to defend himself before Vogel made the finding of contempt.
The Supreme Court noted that a defendant may seek a jury trial for any criminal contempt sentence of more than six months, and that the consecutive two-year sentence assigned to Lamontagne was “clearly beyond” the maximum.
But Justice Gilbert Indeglia ruled that the judge did not abuse her discretion in holding Lamontagne in contempt.
The high court ordered Vogel to reduce the contempt sentence to six months, or state prosecutors must file a criminal complaint. The court said that Lamontagne could then choose to have a jury decide his guilt or innocence on the criminal contempt charge.