What can one say about the revelation — the minuscule import of which is mirrored in the mammoth coverage it has received — that a 30-something Joe Trillo once faced charges for whacking a young-teen Nicholas Mattiello?
As Trillo tells it, he was outside working on his house when he heard a young girl’s screams coming from a nearby home. He saw a group of young boys pounding on the front door of the home, where the girl – who by Trillo’s recollection was was around 12 or 13 – had been left alone.
“I immediately dropped everything I was doing and ran over to the house, and started waving my arms around furiously to disband the group of boys doing everything they could to get in that house,” Trillo said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “That’s when one of my arms unintentionally struck young Nicholas Mattiello, who was approximately 14 years old.”
According to reports from WPRO radio, Mattiello’s family pressed charges, Trillo pleaded no contest, and, eventually, the assault charge was expunged from the gubernatorial candidate’s record.
WPRI has since found that Trillo was actually found not guilty, and Nicholas Mattiello clearly bears him no ill will, but the most telling detail of the anecdote, for my money, is that the Mattiellos insisted on pressing charges against their neighbor for accidental contact with their son in defense of a young girl. But going down that line of inquiry would require one to believe that an incident from the year of my birth might contribute more to voters’ understanding of the candidate than the behavior that has been on display for the public in more-recent decades.
The larger concern for Rhode Islanders should be the degree to which the whole thing just feels so Rhode Island. People talk about how everybody knows everybody in our state, but that isn’t true. It would absolutely be possible to fill the State House with elected officials who were not each other’s neighbors at any point in the past half century.
The problem is that our government is set up to elevate colorful characters and people of a certain sort and disposition. That’s what needs to change, and its causes ought to be the subject of our public discourse.