Providence Bites

"digestible" news from around town

by by Emma Berry & Jonah Wolf

illustration by by Andrew Seiden

Fewer Kids—and they're not Alright

Despite a crippling recession that left Rhode Island with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, the population in Little Rhody actually went up in the last decade according to the 2010 census—but it only grew 0.4 percent, the weakest increase of all the states in the United States. (Michigan was the only state with a net population loss, driven by the decay of the American auto industry.)

But this week, The Providence Journal reported that while RI’s overall population rose, the number of children in the state shrunk by 10 percent. In some areas, like Newport, the decline was over 20 percent. Meanwhile, under-18s are a more diverse group than ever, racially and, especially, ethnically: the number of Hispanic children in the state grew 31 percent.
Anonymous ProJo commenters saw the data as cause for alarm and blamed it on the usual culprits: gays, unions, automated customer service lines that ask you to press 1 for English. Sociologists pointed to the economy as a factor in both: families with children to support may be more likely to leave the state to seek employment, and people may put off having children during tough economic times. Meanwhile, for many immigrants, Rhode Island is the land of economic opportunity, at least comparatively.

Despite the state’s economic strain, Rhode Island’s child poverty rate is still lower than that of most other states—unfortunately, that still means that one in six RI children lives in poverty. Almost 50 percent of those live in extreme poverty, defined by the government as a single-parent household with two children and an annual income of less than $8,643. Here’s hoping that recent upticks in national employment bode well for everyone. –EB

The Saint Comes Marching in—to Court 

On Thursday, March 24, after three postponements for medical reasons, 69-year-old Anthony “the Saint” St. Laurent—whose faulty bowels have earned him the sobriquet “Public Enema No. 1”—finally appeared in US District Court, pleading guilty to charges of murder-for-hire in a conspiracy against his former associate, Robert DeLuca, 64. In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss St. Laurent’s extortion, dating back to 1988, of two Taunton, RI bookmakers—a crime for which his wife, Dorothy, and son, Anthony, Jr., were already serving time.

The rift between DeLuca and St. Laurent opened in 2001. That year, DeLuca, already in prison for shaking down local restaurateur Paulie Calenda (DeLuca threatened to blow him up in his car if he didn’t hand over his diner, the Fore ‘n’ Aft), appealed a prior gambling sentence, chalking his initial plea of “no contest” up to ignorance of the fact that his codefendant, St. Laurent, was a government informant.

In his plea agreement, St. Laurent admits to meeting his would-be gunman on April 12, 2006, and driving to the Sidebar restaurant in downtown Providence, where DeLuca’s attorney, former Cianci aide Artin Coloian, had set the paroled mobster up with a kitchen job. St. Laurent was arrested for extortion the following day. As the plea agreement states: “During the last six months of 2007, while incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center at Fort Devens, defendant solicited another inmate to find someone who would kill DeLuca. This inmate expressed concerns about the problems that could befall someone who killed a “made” member of the LCN [La Cosa Nostra]. Defendant indicated that he received permission [redacted]. Instead of offering financial compensation for DeLuca’s murder, defendant offered only to ‘propose’ the killer for membership in the LCN as reward for carrying out the murder.”

Also included in the plea agreement was the Saint’s confirmation that Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio had served as the head of the New England branch of La Cosa Nostra. On January 19, the same day that St. Laurent initially filed his plea, Manocchio was arrested (along with 126 other alleged Mafiosi) in what Attorney General Eric Holder called the “largest mob bust in American history.” –JW