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Twice disgraced Providence mayor says he'll run again

By Julia Talanova and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:24 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vincent "Buddy" Cianci has had two runs as mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
  • Both tenures ended after he was indicted -- once for assault, next for corruption
  • Now, Cianci says he'll run again for mayor of Providence
  • "Experience is a great teacher, but often a painful one," he said

(CNN) -- Vincent "Buddy" Cianci has been mayor of Providence, Rhode Island -- twice. Both times, he left under a dark cloud after being convicted of crimes he committed while in office.

Now, he wants back in.

Cianci announced Wednesday on his weekday radio show that he intends to seek a third go as the mayor of Rhode Island's capital and biggest city, feeling he's the best bet for Providence's future regardless of his own past.

"Today with a sense of humility, contrition and confidence I announce to you my candidacy for mayor of Providence," the 73-year-old Cianci said on WPRO 630.

He was an Army veteran and prosecutor when he became mayor the first time in 1975, quickly establishing himself as a character and significant actor in the New England city.

Things came tumbling down in 1983, when he was indicted for extortion, assault with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, conspiracy and simple assault. That stemmed from an incident that year at his Providence home, in which he used his hands and a lit cigarette to assault a man he accused of having an affair with his estranged wife, with a uniformed policeman nearby -- an account detailed in court records and documented by then-Providence Journal reporter Mike Stanton.

He pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, the following year to one count of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of simple assault, according to court documents.

As part of the plea deal, Cianci never went to prison -- getting five years of probation on the assault with a dangerous weapon charge and one year's probation on the simple assault charge -- but was forced to leave his job as mayor.

Still, Cianci didn't go away completely. He remained very much a part of the Providence landscape and a fixture on talk radio.

And soon after his probation was over, Cianci was elected mayor once again.

He stayed in that position for 11 more years, continuing to push the redevelopment and becoming a celebrity of sorts -- with a signature marinara sauce and guest spots on the NBC show "Providence."

But Cianci's tenure in office ended abruptly, as part of what was known as Operation Plunder Dome. That led to his conviction in 2002 on federal corruption charge, earning him a sentence of five years and four months in prison, plus two years probation and a $100,000 fine.

At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres credited the then-mayor's "rare vision and boundless energy" and his "great role in the renaissance of the city."

"It is not an understatement to say that this is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Torres added, saying it was his job to sentence "Mr. Hyde."

Reflecting on his past Wednesday, Cianci told CNN affiliate WPRI. "I understand it comes with baggage, but I think people have to take you for who you are.

"They know me from head to toe. They know my faults."

Cianci joins six other candidates aiming for the office.

"There are some of you that may say that this is an 11th hour decision but I assure you it was not made irrationally or in haste," said Cianci." Rather it has been conceived with much soul searching and reflection."

During his announcement on Wednesday, Cianci acknowledged that he will be scrutinized for this decision and even hinted at his previous experiences as his foundation for being a worthy candidate.

"Experience is a great teacher, but often a painful one," he said.

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