State v. Colangelo, 7567.

Citation179 A. 147
Decision Date29 May 1935
Docket NumberNo. 7567.,7567.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island

[Ed. Note:—For other definitions of "Cheat," see Words & Phrases.]

Exceptions from Superior Court, Providence and Bristol Counties; Philip C. Joslin, Judge.

Nicola Colangelo was convicted of being a common cheat, and he brings exceptions. Exceptions overruled, and case remitted.

John P. Hartigan, Atty. Gen., and Michael De Ciantis, Third Asst. Atty. Gen., for the State.

Benjamin Cianciarulo, Angelo Cianciarulo, and Edward A. Capomacchio, all of Providence, for defendant.


This is a criminal complaint brought against the defendant charging him with being a common cheat. A verdict of guilty was returned by the jury in the superior court. No motion for a new trial was filed. The defendant comes to this court on his bill of exceptions to certain rulings on the admission of evidence by the trial justice. His only claim in both his written brief and his argument is to the effect that such rulings, which included the admission of evidence of immoral practices and conduct, improperly influenced the jury and deprived him of a fair trial on the offense charged.

The defendant, in 1927, was living in a small tenement on the third floor of a house on Meader street in the city of Providence. Up to that time he had been employed as a musician and music teacher. His conversion from a prosaic existence to a person endowed with supernatural power was described by him as originating in a vision which he had on February 12, 1927, while waiting for a pupil who apparently was not going to keep his appointment. The part of the vision, which seems to have made a lasting impression on the defendant, was that as he sat "meditating" he heard a voice say to him: "Though I am the Nazarene, the Christ, thou shalt lead the world, and see life, love. As there is only one God, there shall Be only one religion, one republic, one nation, and no money to be used except one that says in American money: 'In God We Trust.'" From the day of the vision in which he testified this creed was enunciated, the defendant began to treat the sick, the lame, and the disordered.

It was not long before the "faithful" made it possible for the defendant to move from his modest home on Meader street to a conspicuously painted mansion at the corner of Almy street and Broadway in this city. Here he held himself out as "Nazarene Christ" and called his new habitation the "House of God." Its maintenance was no burden to him, for many persons, principally women, disregarded the interests of their own families in order to give him either gratuitous service or to supply him with funds to meet his living expenses and financial obligations. An automobile and a chauffeur were soon added for his convenience. There was abundant evidence to justify the jury in finding that this conduct of these persons was induced by the artifice and guile of the defendant. What he claimed as "cures" resulted without the administration of any medicine or the use of any means that might come under the head of medical treatment. His treatment, according to him, was purely spiritual, and any personal contact with the patient was limited to the touching or feeling of parts of the body of the affected person. He insisted on the title of "professor" because that denoted power, and testified that he made no charge for his treatments, but did receive money by way of "donations" which were voluntarily left by his patients "on the table" in his office. The donations were usually placed in envelopes which were passed out by an attendant before the prospects saw the professor, with the suggestion that "the more you put in the envelope the better it is for you."

The defendant admitted receiving money in other ways at his "House of God." He regimented his faithful under the name of Religious Alliance or Crusaders. To each member, upon the payment of a dollar, he gave an inexpensive button stamped with a design and letters conveying the suggestion of divine attributes. He also purchased at wholesale gilded keys with small thermometers attached which, according to him, he sold for $1 each as souvenirs of Providence to his followers, but which, according to others, who later lost faith in his claim of divine power, he enhanced in price to $5 apiece if he imparted...

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61 cases
  • State v. Pratt
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • May 13, 1994
    ...prove a defendant's propensity to commit the crime charged. State v. Brigham, 638 A.2d 1043, 1044-45 (R.I.1994); State v. Colangelo, 55 R.I. 170, 173, 179 A. 147, 149 (1935). The prejudicial effect of such evidence has been traditionally viewed as outweighing its probative value by acting t......
  • State v. Rainey
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • January 11, 2018
    ...nature, may be received when they are interwoven with the offense for which the defendant is being tried * * *." State v. Colangelo , 55 R.I. 170, 173–74, 179 A. 147, 149 (1935). "In molestation or sexual assault cases, evidence of a defendant's prior sexual misconduct cannot be admitted to......
  • State v. Rainey, 2014-348-M.P.
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • January 11, 2018
    ...received when they are interwoven with the offense for which the defendant is being tried * * *." State v. Colangelo, 55 R.I. 170, 173-74, 179 A. 147, 149 (1935). "In molestation or sexual assault cases, evidence of a defendant's prior sexual misconduct cannot be admitted to prove that 'def......
  • State v. Cline
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • August 31, 1979
    ...becomes relevant to the proof of an issue provable in a case, then the inhibition is no longer applicable. See, e. g., State v. Colangelo, 55 R.I. 170, 179 A. 147 (1935). In this case the proof of escape from the ACI was highly relevant to explain to the triers of fact how defendant could s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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