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RI state lawmaker accused of sexual assault

By Laura Crimaldi and David Klepper
Associated Press / October 28, 2011

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A state representative and retired police sergeant was indicted Friday on sexual assault charges, becoming the fourth Rhode Island lawmaker to face criminal charges this year.

Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence, was charged by a grand jury with first- and second-degree sexual assault and one count of assault with the intent to commit sexual assault, said state Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said. The 50-year-old Carnevale was elected in 2008 and is a member of the powerful House Finance Committee.

The charges stem from a July 28 encounter with a woman in Johnston, Kilmartin's office said. The office declined to provide more information Johnston police also declined to comment.

Carnevale's attorney, William Dimitri, said his client denies the charges.

House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, issued a statement Friday calling the indictment an "unfortunate situation" but saying it would be resolved "at the courthouse, not the statehouse."

"Every person, whether or not they are a public official, has a presumption of innocence and is entitled to their day in court," Fox said.

Carnevale attended a Statehouse hearing Thursday about the state's pension system. His arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 16 in Providence County Superior Court.

Court records show Carnevale's ex-wife has accused him of physical abuse in the past.

Jennifer Reed, 52, sought court protection from Carnevale in 1998, 1999 and 2004, court records show. The couple divorced in 2000 and have two adult children, ages 21 and 20.

All Reed's abuse complaints were voluntarily withdrawn, court records show. She declined to comment Friday on the sex assault charges.

In a 2004 affidavit, Reed said Carnevale choked and punched her, struck her with a cord and then climbed through their daughter's window to gain access to her locked bedroom in North Kingstown. She wrote in the same affidavit that Carnevale had been arrested three times by North Kingstown police. A message left for police Friday wasn't immediately returned.

Reed withdrew the complaint in December 2004 after Carnevale agreed to stay off the property they owned together, records show. Carnevale asked the court to dismiss the temporary restraining order, saying Reed's allegations were untrue.

In 1999, Reed told police that Carnevale grabbed her by the wrist, dragged her out of the house and hung up the phone when she called police. Reed told police the fight started after Carnevale woke her up and asked for money. When she refused, Reed said Carnevale told her to call his girlfriend. When she picked up the phone to call, Reed said Carnevale pulled the phone off the wall, according to a transcript of a police interview.

Six months earlier, she said in a restraining order application that Carnevale pinned her against a wall on one occasion and slapped her across the shoulder and chest at another time. She said the encounters took place within weeks of Carnevale moving out of their home.

Messages left Friday for for Carnevale and Reed's divorce attorneys weren't immediately returned.

Carnevale is the fourth state lawmaker to face criminal charges this year.

Police arrested Rep. Dan Gordon, R-Portsmouth, last month after learning he faced charges in Massachusetts of failing to stop for police, driving with a suspended license and other charges stemming from a 2008 traffic stop. Gordon agreed to pay $1,000 to resolve the charge that he fled from police and received probation for other traffic related-charges.

Also last month, Rep. Leo Medina, D-Providence, was accused of pocketing proceeds from a life insurance policy on a friend's dead daughter. Medina maintains his innocence. His first court appearance is scheduled for next week.

In the spring, Rep. Robert Watson, R-East Greenwich, was charged with drug possession and DUI in Connecticut. Police say Watson had consumed marijuana and cocaine. Watson denied using cocaine and said he had marijuana to treat pancreatitis but hadn't smoked that day.