Rhode Island suspends criminal probe of 38 Studios, the company behind Kingdom of Amalur

Depending on who you ask, 2012’s Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning was an overambitious yet tragically generic fantasy role-playing game or a solid premiere effort from Rhode Island-based developer 38 Studios. What’s less up for debate is that the legal controversy that’s plagued its studio closure has long since overshadowed the legacy of the game itself: questions over the misuse of a $75 million loan from the state and other alleged wrongdoings have fueled both civil and criminal cases in the last four years, and only one of them — the criminal case — has seen resolution so far.

The short version? Late on Friday the state of Rhode Island announced it had suspended its investigation into 38 Studios, the studio’s founder, and state officials behind the $75 million loan, citing insufficient evidence. The goal for state prosecutors was to demonstrate that 38 Studios had misused its loan in a criminally irresponsible way and that, by extension, the studio and the state officials who approved the loan had effectively defrauded Rhode Island taxpayers. Unfortunately, after four years of building a case, prosecutors came up short.

“There were no provable criminal violations of the Rhode Island General laws in connection with the funding of 38 Studios, the disbursement of funds to 38 Studios, and by 38 Studios to vendors,” the state police department wrote in a statement, as reported by WPRI. “In other words, the quantity and quality of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.”

This isn’t to say 38 Studios and the politicians behind the deal are cleared of all wrongdoing, since (as alluded to above) there are two ongoing civil suits as well: one filed by the state against those behind the loan, and civil charges of fraud filed against the state by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The outcomes of these, as the Rhode Island state police department notes, are still forthcoming.

“The goal of the [state] investigation into the funding and failure of 38 Studios was not to create the definitive history of how the legislation to fund 38 Studios came to be, why that business failed, who made poor business or political decisions along the way, or who, if anyone, should be civilly liable for their action or inaction,” said the police department. “Those questions are for the civil litigation. Rather, the very narrow focus was to determine whether the actions of any person or persons violated any criminal provisions of the Rhode Island General Laws.”

State attorney general Peter Kilmartin added in a press conference on Friday that the investigation was not considered “closed” and that charges could still be brought against 38 Studios if new information were to emerge further down the line. Asked about the news on Twitter, 38 Studios founder, former professional baseball player (and shamed ex-ESPN analyst) Curt Schilling said: “Could have saved [the state] 10s of millions more by telling you that 5 years ago. Disgusted to see officers sent on fake ass witch hunt.”

The state’s civil case against the architects of the $75 million loan is currently scheduled to go to trial this September.

(h/t Eurogamer, GamasutraWPRI, Providence Journal.)