Probation is an Opportunity: A Limited One

A recent article in the Providence Journal by Katie Mulvaney titled, “RI man, never tried in Rape, remains imprisoned for it.” ( is disingenuous.

The inmate, 52-year-old Robert Raso, violated the conditions of his parole and probation based on allegations he committed sexual assault. After prosecutors decided not to go forward with the criminal matter, Raso appealed his violation and return to prison for the balance of his original sentence.

Judge William Carnes upheld the violation and denied his petition for release. The court based the decision on the testimony of the original prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Carr Guglielmo. Guglielmo told the court the decision not to prosecute was not because of any doubt in his mind that probable cause existed to continue the case and the victim’s allegations and statements were credible.

Sometimes, even when the police identify a perpetrator and evidence is available, the best course of justice is no trial. Here, the victim suffered twice. Once at the hands of the man who assaulted her and then by family members who chose not to believe her, and tried to force her to recant. She did not, and this is the key aspect.

Roger Williams University Law Professor Andrew Horwitz, said, “the case — and the sentence — is ‘exactly’ what is wrong with the state’s probation system.” Professor Horwitz argued that “very serious allegations were resolved through a probation violation hearing instead of a trial in which the defendant would have enjoyed a full panoply of constitutional protections.”

The title of the piece skews the core element. Mr. Raso “enjoyed” his full constitutional benefit at the violation hearing. He had competent counsel, a neutral court, and the opportunity to question the evidence used to support the violation.

Raso is serving time for violating probation on the original criminal charges he faced, not for an unresolved Rape case.

Also from the article;

“In March 2011, Judge Savage sentenced Raso to serve 25 years for violating the terms of his probation from a slew of offenses committed more than a decade earlier, including kidnapping, attempted murder, armed robberies, and arson. Raso served 12 years for the previous offenses. A 28-year suspended sentence with probation remained hanging over him upon his release.”

To be clear, Raso is serving the balance of his sentence because a court found he violated the conditions of his probation. Despite the lack of a criminal trial in the case triggering the violation, a Judge heard competent and convincing evidence that Mr. Raso violated the conditions of probation. Before he could secure his release, Mr. Raso had to accept and agree to the conditions of probation.

He violated those conditions, and Judge Savage rightfully returned him to prison. If there is anything to question about the Rhode Island Probation system it’s why did a man sentenced to forty years serve barely one-third of his sentence?

The onus fell on Mr. Raso to make sure he avoided even the whisper of violating conditions. Probation is an opportunity, yet a limited one. While I often argue the inequities of prison sentences and see them as a poor solution to the problem of crime, in this matter, it is appropriate.