PROVIDENCE, R.I., May 2 -- A defense lawyer was charged Monday with leaking an FBI surveillance video to a television reporter, who nearly went to prison for refusing to identify his source.
Joseph Bevilacqua Jr., 55, agreed to plead guilty to contempt and perjury for violating a court order not to release the footage and then lying about it under oath, U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente said.
The video, which showed a mayoral aide taking a bribe, was part of a City Hall corruption investigation that sent Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr. and the aide to prison. A judge had barred anyone connected to the case from releasing any of the tapes.
Bevilacqua gave the tape to WJAR reporter Jim Taricani, who aired it in 2001 on the NBC affiliate. The newsman was later found in contempt for refusing to reveal his source and served four months under house arrest before he was released April 9.
After a more than three-year investigation by a special prosecutor into who leaked the tape, Bevilacqua admitted under oath in November that he was Taricani's source.
No date has been set for Bevilacqua to enter the plea. The perjury charge carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The contempt charge carries no maximum sentence, Corrente said. Prosecutors would not comment on what punishment they will seek.
Bevilacqua and his attorneys did not immediately return calls.
Corrente said Bevilacqua's actions amounted to a form of public corruption and wasted the court's time.
"Our courts have enough to do without having to embark on long and expensive proceedings that could have been avoided by obeying the court's orders and telling the truth," he said.
David Curtin, chief counsel for the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board, said he will recommend that Bevilacqua be disbarred.
Bevilacqua has said he never asked Taricani to keep his name secret, which Taricani disputes.
Bevilacqua represented the city tax assessor in the corruption investigation. His late father was a Rhode Island Supreme Court chief justice who quit in 1986 amid accusations that he associated with mobsters.