Lawmaker facing charges he extorted page for sex resigns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island state senator facing charges that accuse him of extorting a teenage Statehouse page for sex has resigned.

Republican Nicholas Kettle said in a letter Thursday that he has “determined that it is in my best interest to resign and concentrate on the unfounded allegations against me.”

The move comes a day after Senate leaders, including Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Republican Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, took the extraordinary step of introducing a resolution to expel Kettle, the Senate’s minority whip. No Rhode Island lawmaker has been expelled in 175 years since the state constitution went into effect in 1843.

A hearing on that legislation had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Kettle, 27, was arrested last week and charged with extorting a male page for sex on two occasions in 2011 and with video voyeurism that involved trading nude photos of his ex-girlfriend and a New Hampshire woman taken without their consent.

His lawyer has denied wrongdoing.

The page would have been 16 or 17 years old at the time of the alleged extortion. The Associated Press does not identify people who may be victims of sex crimes unless they agree to have their names published. Pages help lawmakers with errands at the Rhode Island Statehouse.

In his letter on Thursday, Kettle said it had been a “privilege” to represent his constituents since he was first elected in 2010.

He added his thanks to people who he said had supported him during this time “as it is clear that they understand that I am innocent until proven guilty.”

“I am extremely disappointed in Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle because Mr. Algiere and Mr. Ruggerio do not appear to understand the importance of due process as a cornerstone of our legal system,” Kettle wrote.

Both Ruggerio and Algiere said in separate written statements that Kettle’s decision is in the best interest of the state and the Senate. Both cited the severity of the allegations and their obligation to provide a safe work environment for employees.

“The extremely serious allegations against Mr. Kettle, including sexual exploitation of a minor in the Senate page program, are unlike any I have witnessed during my time in the Senate,” Ruggerio said. “I am grateful that Mr. Kettle has chosen a path that avoids requiring his colleagues to consider expulsion.”

Kettle became the youngest senator in state history when he was elected to represent parts of Coventry, Foster, Scituate and West Greenwich at age 20.

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