Elorza Plagiarized Diossa Apology for Stealing

Friday, August 29, 2014


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 Providence mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza’s admission that he had been arrested for shoplifting was taken word for word from a letter Central Falls Mayor James Diossa issued to constituents explaining his arrest on the same charge.

Elorza’s campaign confirmed in a statement to GoLocalProv that the former housing court judge had been arrested as an 18-year-old for shoplifting a shirt from a department store in Warwick. Elorza pled no contest to the charge and served 20 hours of community service.

In a June 20 letter to 7,000 Providence voters, Elorza said he had learned an important lesson from the incident and had turned his life around.

He wrote: “I want to be upfront about a mistake I made years ago as a young man, because I want you to hear the story directly from me. When I was 18 years old, I was caught shoplifting a shirt from a department store. Why did I do it? I don’t have a good answer. Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to impress my friends. I knew it was the wrong thing to do, and I accepted full responsibility immediately. I faced a judge and served my community service hours, grateful that I had adults who loved me unconditionally and supported me when I needed it. I learned a valuable lesson and I’ve never been in trouble with the law again.”

His confession is taken nearly word for word from a letter Diossa sent on Oct. 6, 2012.

“Like many people, I have had my share of ups and downs. I want to be upfront about a mistake I made years ago as a young man, because I want you to hear the story directly from me and not from an opponent of mine.  When I was a teenager, I was arrested for shoplifting a bottle of cologne from a store.  Why did I do it?  I don’t have a good answer.  Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to impress my friends.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do and I accepted full responsibility immediately.  I faced a judge and served my community service hours, grateful that I had caring adults who loved me unconditionally and supported me when I needed it. I learned a lot from that experience.”

The full text of both letters will be posted at the bottom of the story.

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 When first asked why Elorza brought up the arrest, his campaign manager, Marisa O’Gara said, “Much of his story is about his struggles as a young man, and how he turned his life around. He chose to be forthright about this because he believes strongly in transparency and ethics, and he wants to be completely upfront with the people of Providence. He wants them to hear directly from him how these struggles shaped his vision for Providence.”

Asked tonight why his confession was nearly identical to Diossa’s, O’Gara said an advisor had drafted the letter. She confirmed the advisor, whom she did not name, had also worked for Diossa. She said the campaign had not been aware of the similarity in language.

“A former advisor helped our campaign write the first draft of this letter, and this same advisor had also worked on James Diossa’s letter. Jorge relayed his personal story, our advisor presented us with this language, and Jorge felt it accurately described his personal struggle. If we had known the language was the same as Mayor Diossa's, we would have immediately corrected it. What was really important to Jorge was disclosing the truth about the mistakes he made as a young man, mistakes about which he has been forthright and upfront,” O’Gara said.

GoLocalProv first learned of the existence of the letter from former state Rep. candidate Thomas Kane, who was running in House District 52 in Cumberland but eventually dropped out of the race after incumbent Karen MacBeth decided to stay in it.

Kane said he obtained a copy of the letter from an advisor when he was seeking examples of letters other candidates had sent out to voters. He ended up not writing one of his own since he decided against running. But had he decided to use the letter, he said he would not have copied it word for word.

“Absolutely not. Voters deserve authenticity from candidates seeking their vote. I never would have hand signed a letter that plagiarized an elected official,” Kane said. 

Diossa could not be reached for comment in time for publication. 

Stephen Beale can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bealenews


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