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Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara Celebrates 15 Years of Legal Excellence

For information, contact:
Clare Eckert at  

Rhode Island – March 1, 2021 – Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC (PLDO) announced that the firm is commemorating its 15th anniversary, marking a significant and proud milestone achieved through innovation in the practice of law, teamwork, and collaboration in delivering quality legal services for clients despite the challenges, including last year’s unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our success as a law firm is rooted in a commitment to excellence by our attorneys and staff, and we thank our loyal clients for their support and confidence through the years,” said Gary R. Pannone, a founder and Managing Principal. “Fifteen years ago, we decided to form a new entity that would combine business principles to the practice of law by encouraging collaboration by and among all of our lawyers and staff with a focus on building strategic alliances with other businesses and professionals in an effort to pool resources and develop creative and cost-effective solutions to complex business and legal issues. We are extremely proud of our accomplishments and thank our entire team and our clients for being a part of this success story.” 

Pannone added, “Last year was uniquely challenging with the unprecedented pandemic; however, we were prepared for this type of event by making significant investments in technology and training our lawyers and staff to effectively discharge their responsibilities through the use of technology while working remotely. All the credit goes to the lawyers and staff for being prepared for the challenges that we have all faced and we are humbled and grateful to our long-standing client relationships.”  

Founded in 2006, PLDO has become a highly respected, multi-state law firm with a business platform that is innovative, incorporates advanced technology in servicing clients, and relies upon a team approach to problem-solving for clients. In addition to Attorney Pannone, other founding members are PLDO Principals Matthew A. Lopes Jr., William P. Devereaux, and William E. O’Gara. All of the principals were formerly partners in an international law firm and collectively have more than 140 years of experience in the practice of law.

Over the years, PLDO has distinguished itself as one of the top-ranked law firms in the region and is annually selected as among the “Best Law Firms” in America by U.S. News – Best Lawyers®. PLDO attorneys are consistently recognized by their peers as Best Lawyers in America© and many of the firm’s lawyers have been recognized by their peers and judges with the Martindale Hubbell AV Preeminent rating, which is the highest level of achievement for professional skill and integrity. 

The firm is also dedicated to being involved in the community and has supported hundreds of nonprofit organizations over the years in charitable giving, volunteerism and pro bono resources.  It has been honored with several awards for its service such as being recognized for its volunteerism by the American Cancer Society at its Rhode Island “Toast To Hope” event and its contribution to the business community by being named “Corporation of the Year” by the Rhode Island Black Business Association.  PLDO is also one of the law firms that is part of the Roger Williams University School of Law Pro Bono Collaborative.  

The day the firm opened its doors it consisted of the four principals, two lawyers and a few staff members. Today, it is a prestigious, full-service law firm with over 60 attorneys and professional staff and a geographical footprint that includes offices in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts.  PLDO has thrived in spite of the economic downturn in 2008 and the pandemic of 2020 to become a highly respected full-service law firm. 

PLDO clients include closely-held businesses, public companies, health care providers, public finance entities, nonprofit organizations, municipalities, software developers, universities, developers, construction companies, high-net-worth individuals, as well as emerging businesses including the cannabis industry. The attorneys have extensive experience in the areas of administrative law, business law, special masterships, civil litigation, public finance, estate planning, probate administration, white collar, health care, trust litigation, employment law, real estate development and commercial lending. The firm’s latest initiative is the creation of PLDO Strategies LLC, a consulting arm that provides services in the areas of legislative strategies, government affairs, lobbying, grassroots advocacy, strategic communications and crisis management. 

As part of its anniversary celebration with the community, PLDO has created a multimedia “15th Anniversary” web page that includes a video and other material highlighting the firm’s growth and success. Please click Celebrating 15 Years of Legal Excellence to access the information. To learn more, visit and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

About Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC

The core values of Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC include integrity, providing quality service and responsiveness. In addition to practicing law, the firm is committed to supporting the community in a meaningful way. The firm has offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Florida. For more information, visit

Red flag bill, bump stocks ban now law

Governor signs bills passed by General Assembly yesterday

STATE HOUSE – Following passage by the General Assembly yesterday, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo today signed into law two bills to prevent gun violence and mass shootings: “red flag” legislation that allows courts to disarm individuals who are believed by law enforcement to represent a violent threat to themselves or others, and a ban on bump stocks and other rapid-fire gun modifications.

The first bill, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and in the House by Rep. Dennis M. Canario, is known as a “red flag” law because it allows police to seek from Superior Court an “extreme risk protective order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms, based on threats and other warning signs that the person might commit violence.

“With this new law, we can truly prevent tragedies. People who are demonstrably unstable and are making serious threats should not be armed. All too often after a mass shooting we learn about all the warning signs people saw from the shooter and wonder why they still had guns. Unfortunately, it’s frequently because there isn’t always a legal means to disarm them. Finally, here in our state and in others that have been adopting red flag laws, we will have a speedy but fair process to ensure that those who pose a legitimate risk do not remain armed,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Said Representative Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), “This new law will disarm those who pose a serious threat for the protection of children and the public. As a retired police officer with more than 25 years of experience in the law enforcement field, I thank my fellow officers for their leadership and commitment to addressing this critical situation. With this new law, we have an important means of stopping troubled individuals from carrying out violence and preventing tragic events.”

The governor signed the bills in a State House ceremony today, flanked by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, both cosponsors of the red flag bill, and other legislators. The event was attended by gun safety advocates, many of whom wore orange in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“Since I’ve been governor, I’ve had to lower the state flag to half-staff 10 times because of mass shootings. The red flag law and bump stock ban will go a long way to prevent that kind of tragedy in Rhode Island and will make our state safer,” said Governor Raimondo. “Rhode Islanders are not going to wait for Washington to take action on gun violence. I appreciate the General Assembly’s leadership to pass these bills and I’m proud to sign them to send a loud and clear signal that Rhode Islanders will not stand for gun violence.”

Under the red flag law (2018-S 2492A, 2018-H 7688Aaa), an extreme risk protective order will prohibit an individual from possessing or purchasing guns, will require them to surrender guns in their possession and will invalidate any concealed carry permits they have. The order will be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and all state and federal lists used for determining whether those seeking to purchase guns have been prohibited from doing so. Violating such an order would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The order would be in place for one year, but could be renewed by the court. Those subject to one could also petition once per year to have them lifted.

Under the legislation, a law enforcement agency can petition Superior Court for an extreme risk protection order if it believes the individual poses a significant danger of causing imminent injury to himself or others by having a firearm. The petitioner must state to the court the specific statements, actions, or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by that individual, and must concurrently file for a search warrant to search for any weapons the individual possesses.

Upon the filing for an order, the court may issue temporary extreme risk protective order, similar to a temporary restraining order, if the court finds probable cause to believe the individual poses an imminent threat to others or himself if armed.

A judge would determine at a hearing whether to issue an extreme risk protection order, considering
any recent acts or threats of violence with or without a firearm and patterns of such threats or acts in the previous year, and the individual’s mental health, substance abuse and criminal histories. The court would also consider any unlawful, threatening, or reckless use or brandishing of a firearm by the individual and evidence of any recent acquisition of a firearm.

Such legislation could have helped to prevent the Parkland, Fla., school shooting Feb. 14. Police say the alleged shooter carried out the attack with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon. Before the shooting, his mother had contacted law enforcement about his behavior on multiple occasions, but Florida did not have a red flag law. It has since passed one.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a national advocacy group that supports the bill, a nationwide study of mass shootings from 2009 to 2016 showed that in least 42 percent of those incidents, there is documentation that the attacker exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting.

Connecticut, California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington enacted red flag laws prior to this year, and since the Parkland shooting, so have Florida, Maryland and Vermont.

The other bill (2018-H 7075Aaa, 2018-S 2292A), sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven and Sen. James A. Seveney, bans bump stocks, binary triggers and trigger cranks on semi-automatic weapons.

A bump stock is an attachment that allows the shooter to fire a semi-automatic weapon with great rapidity. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock, freeing the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.

In October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, 12 of the rifles in the gunman’s possession were modified with a bump stock, allowing the weapon to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds — a much faster rate than the AR-15 style assault rifle used by the Orlando nightclub shooter, which fired about 24 shots in nine seconds.

“With the enactment of this law, we are clearly stating that Rhode Island will not tolerate these dangerous tools of death. There is now no ambiguity; No one can buy, possess, attach or use a bump stock, trigger crank or binary crank in Rhode Island,” said Representative Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).

Said Senator Seveney, (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), “These devices are all ways to get around the federal law that bans fully automatic weapons by making semi-automatic weapons fire almost as fast as them. Today, we stop this end run and ban these horrific devices in Rhode Island.”

The new law makes it unlawful to possess, transport, manufacture, ship or sell a bump stock, regardless of whether the person is in possession of a firearm. Those violating the provisions, would face imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both. It would also make it unlawful and apply the same penalties for any person to modify any semi-automatic weapon to shoot full automatic fire with a single pull or hold of the trigger.

The new law also bans binary triggers, which is a device designed to fire one round on the pull of the trigger and another round upon release of the trigger, effectively doubling the weapon’s shooting capabilities; and trigger cranks, which attach to the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon and cause the weapon to fire by turning the crank handle.

Both bills have the support of Governor Raimondo, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the State Police, the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence, the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (a part of Everytown) and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Rhode Island has taken an important step in protecting its citizens from gun violence with the passage of the red flag law and banning bump stocks,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. “I applaud the leadership of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association for their advocacy on the red flag legislation, the General Assembly for the urgency in which they took up the measure, and the governor for signing it into law today. Until now, law enforcement’s hands have been tied when they come into contact with someone they believe is a danger to themselves and others. With the red flag law, we now have a legal process, with protections for individuals, to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Unfortunately, even in just the weeks that these bills were being discussed, we saw new incidents of gun violence, both nationally and closer to home. While the steps Rhode Island has taken today won’t eradicate the problem, it will provide additional tools to enhance public safety.”

Jennifer Boylan, a volunteer leader with the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, “The legislature prioritizing these bills and Gov. Raimondo’s swift signing of them today, along with last year’s enactment of lifesaving domestic violence legislation demonstrates that Rhode Island is joining the ranks of states leading the fight to prevent gun violence. Once again, our lawmakers have listened to the majority of Rhode Islanders and taken action to protect our families and keep our communities safe. These bills will save lives and we are so proud to see them signed into law.”

“The Rhode Island State Police strongly supports any legislation that will help us save lives,” said Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and director of the Department of Public Safety. “These two new laws will help us in our efforts to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals who pose a threat to our troopers, other law enforcement officers and the communities we are sworn to protect.”

“The root of the problem and the resulting tragedies all across this country reaffirms why we need sensible gun legislation and mental health reform,” said Central Falls Colonel James J. Mendonca, president of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. “The signing of this bill goes a long way in tackling both issues in a sensible, responsible manner that balances an individual’s constitutional rights with maintaining public safety.”

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923


WARWICK— Melina Trudeau, Krista Schmitz and Michael Forte, Jr, of The Law Firm
of Olenn & Penza LLP, were recently named Partners after each achieved outstanding results in
pushing the firm forward and successes inside the courtroom.
Trudeau, an attorney licensed to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, joined the
firm in 2004. Her work focuses on aiding small business clients and individual business owners
in making practical decisions regarding their legal needs. Her clients also include mental health
providers, individuals affected by malpractice and attorneys. She litigated in both jury and non-
jury trials in Rhode Island and represented her clients at countless mediations and arbitrations.
Additionally, Trudeau focuses on creating practices and procedures for her clients to
implement to reduce legal costs, drafting and negotiating contracts, addressing collection issues, and resolving employment related disputes.

“Small businesses are cost and expense conscious, I am very aware that my role is to
keeping those to a minimum while helping my clients make informed decisions about legal
issues proactively, instead of reactively,” Trudeau said.
Prior to attending law school at Suffolk University Law School, Trudeau graduated from
the University of Rhode Island. Trudeau worked as a substitute teacher in many Rhode Island
public schools. Most notably, as a long-term substitute teaching Italian to grades 9 through 12 in the Warwick School Department. Outside of the legal field, Melina currently serves on the Board of Directors for Project Weber/RENEW in Providence. She lives in Narragansett with her
husband, two young sons and a schnauzer.

Krista Schmitz began her career in insurance defense, where various insurance companies
retain her services to represent their clients in lawsuits filed against them for car accidents, slip
and falls, legal malpractice and other losses. She also uses this knowledge to represent
individuals who suffer personal injuries in car accidents, slip and falls, and other types of
accidents to recover against the responsible party.

Additionally, she represents people who feel wronged by employment
discrimination—be it race, age, gender, disability or sexual harassment.
“People contact me during very difficult and confusing times in their lives,” she said.
“They have either been involved in an accident or have been wrongfully terminated, and they
want another voice. I believe that it is important for me to assist them as an attorney and,
sometimes more importantly, as a person who can understand their situation and is there to listen to their side of the story.”

Schmitz represented various police officers and municipalities for lawsuits filed against
them alleging civil rights violations and negligence. She currently serves as Board Counsel for
the West Warwick Pension Board.

Since joining the firm in 2007, Schmitz received the honor of being named a “Rising
Star” by Super Lawyers from 2013-2017. She practices law in all state and federal courts in
Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Schmitz is a member of the Women’s Bar Association and
serves on the Kent County Bar Association Executive Board. She is currently an assistant chair
of the committee for the Rhode Island Bar Association Annual Meeting in June 2018, where she
will be moderating a program on the topic of sexual harassment. Krista received her
undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northeastern University and her law degree from
Suffolk University Law School in 2007.

Krista is a lifelong resident of Cranston. She and her husband have two kids enrolled in
Cranston Public Schools and she serves as the current Parents and Teachers of Park View
(PTPV) co-president at Park View Middle School and is the former PTO President of Dutemple

Michael Forte, Jr., who has been with the firm for a decade, can litigate in all of the state
and federal courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He regularly works cases covered by the
press including the Providence and Pawtucket pension cases, the Central Coventry Fire District
Bankruptcy and the Rhode Island State Troopers Association lawsuit against the Attorney
General. His clients range from attorneys, to municipal entities, to businesses and individuals in matters ranging from complex constitutional civil rights cases, to corporate receivership matters and shareholder disputes. Forte also serves as legal counsel to the Rhode Island Senate
Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight.

Forte is a certified fraud examiner and his accounting and business knowledge has proven
to be very resourceful for his clients. He is also a member of the superior court receivership
panel. Michael teaches accounting and legal studies topics at the undergraduate level. He
graduated from Providence College and received his law degree and master of business
administration from Suffolk University Law School in 2008.

“I believe that the dynamic nature of business requires that lawyers work on crafting
client focused practical solutions,” he said. “Each business is unique and each business’s
individual strengths and weaknesses do not allow for a ‘one size fits all’ type of representation.
“Further, the needs of businesses evolve at each stage of the business life-cycle,” Forte
continued. “Whether it is a contract dispute, consulting on forming or expanding a business, or
winding down a business, I give clients the full story and realistic options so that clients can
make the decisions that are in their best interests.”

Michael lives in Cranston with his wife and their young son.
Established over 35 years ago, Olenn & Penza, LLP has grown into the largest litigation
firm in Kent County and among the Top 20 largest in Rhode Island. From the early days of
handling insurance defense cases and police matters, the firm has expanded its practice areas to include complex litigation matters for several major insurance companies; police, fire and other labor; admiralty and maritime; business transactions and litigation; landlord/tenant-construction; personal injury; probate and estates; professional liability and real estate litigation.

For more information regarding the practice, or for a free consultation and how the firm
would potentially be of service, please contact the firm at 401-737-3700 or visit their webpage at

*The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all attorneys in the general practice of law.
The court does not licenses or certify any attorney as an expert or spet in any particular
field of practice.

Asset Seizures in Rhode Island Overwhelmingly Involve Smaller Dollar and Property Values

AG and other law enforcement agencies over-emphasize larger criminal enterprises as basis for their opposition
Providence, RI — Contradicting the testimony of officials from the Attorney General’s office and other state and local law enforcement agencies, a new report from the Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights using the State’s own data, shows that over 93% of all cash and property forfeited to the government from 2015-2016 were for low dollar amounts; not the higher-valued assets typical of ‘major criminal enterprises’, as is the basis of law enforcement’s opposition to proposed civil asset forfeiture reform legislation.

Seeking to lead the way for civil rights and responsible government, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is seeking to advance 2018 legislation that would completely re-write the state’s asset seizure and forfeiture laws. The House bill, H7640, and the Senate bill, S2681, were heard in their respective Judiciary Committees in recent weeks. The legislation is a continuation of last year’s successful package of Justice Reinvestment Initiative reforms, which were passed and signed into state law.
“Today’s report from the Hopkins Center clearly supports our claim and directly refutes law enforcement’s argument,” said Mike Stenhouse. CEO for the Center, which has been long-time defenders of private property rights.
Unlike the “wealthy drug lords” and other “big fish” that were the focus of law enforcement’s opposition testimony, a report published earlier this year by the Center suggested that it may actually be low-income and minority communities – the “little fish” – who suffer disparate impacts from poorly written state forfeiture laws. The report also cited Rhode Island’s D minus grade in a recent Institute for Justice report for its weak civil forfeiture laws as a basis for completely re-writing this section of state law.
One such “little fish” victim in Rhode Island, as fully described in the written testimony by Michael DiLauro, Assistant Public Defender, was Domingo Grullon, who had about $2,000 seized by the government and, despite charges being dropped, was never able to successfully reclaim his cash because of the overly-complex burden placed on innocent property owners by current state law. The reform legislation requires a conviction before the government can maintain permanent possession of seized assets.
The legislation, co-written by the Center and the Hopkins Center, would reform Rhode Island’s asset forfeiture statutes and would:
  • Raise the bar for when government may seize property in the first place
  • Lower the bar by which innocent citizens can reclaim their property
  • Increase transparency so that public officials and citizens can provide appropriate oversight
  • Enhance administration to increase the credibility of law enforcement
  • Increase budget accountability to remove perverse incentives for seizure
The Center’s report, as well as additional related information, can be found on the Center’s website, here.
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