Embattled Rhode Island state Sen. Nicholas Kettle resigned Thursday, criticizing Senate leaders for not understanding "the importance of due process as a cornerstone of our legal system" and saying that he wants to focus on "the unfounded allegations against me."
A lawyer for Kettle, Priscilla Facha DiMario, said the senator's letter of resignation will be delivered to the Statehouse at 2 pm.
Kettle's resignation comes within four days of a planned vote to expel him from the Senate, in what would have been the first such vote in modern legislative history.
The Coventry Republican, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of extortion and video voyeurism.
Addressing members of the Senate in his letter, Kettle writes, "After taking several days to speak with my legal counsel and family members, I have determined that it is in my best interest to resign and concentrate on the unfounded allegations against me. I want to thank the constituents from District #21 for the privilege of serving them as their Senator for the last seven years."
Kettle, who was first elected in 2010, continues, "I am grateful for the many individuals who have continued to support me during these difficult times as it is clear that they understand that I am innocent until proven guilty. However, I am extremely disappointed in Senate Leadership on both sides of the aisle because Mr. [Senate Minority Leader Dennis] Algiere and Mr. [Senate President Dominick] Ruggerio do not appear to understand the importance of due process as a cornerstone of our legal system."
Ruggerio and Algiere say the seriousness of the charges against Kettle, including accusations that he twice extorted sex from a male page in 2011, justified the planned vote to expel him.
In a statement Thursday, Ruggerio said, “I believe that the decision Mr. Kettle made today is in the best interests of the Senate and the state. I certainly respect his right to due process, and the proceedings contemplated in the Senate were not being taken lightly. At the same time, the Senate has an obligation to ensure a safe working environment for all who are employed here. 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. I am grateful that Mr. Kettle has chosen a path that avoids requiring his colleagues to consider expulsion.”
The resignation means the district represented by Kettle will not have a new senator until after the November election. The deadline to stage a special election has already passed.
Former state Rep. Michael Marcello and Margaux Morisseau, who lost campaigns against Kettle in 2016 and 2014, are contemplating running for the seat being vacated by Kettle. Morisseau said she and Marcello continue to talk about which of them may run for the seat.
Another senator, James Doyle of Pawtucket, resigned earlier this year. A primary to narrow the field of candidates seeking to succeed him is taking place Tuesday.
The 38-member Senate is now down to 36 members, with just four Republicans.
Kettle's next appearance in court is scheduled for May.
This post has been updated.