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RI rep pleads not guilty in sex assault case

By Laura Crimaldi
Associated Press / November 16, 2011

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A Rhode Island state lawmaker and retired police sergeant pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges he sexually assaulted a Johnston woman in July.

A lawyer for Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence, entered the plea on his client's behalf in Providence County Superior Court. Carnevale is charged with first- and second-degree sexual assault and one count of assault with the intent to commit sexual assault.

"He's innocent until proven guilty. That's our comment," said defense attorney William C. Dimitri. He said Carnevale has no plans to resign.

Judge Daniel A. Procaccini ordered Carnevale, 50, released on $50,000 surety bail. He also authorized Carnevale to travel to Maine, where he has a second home, without seeking permission from the court.

Carnevale must report to the Johnston Police Department to be processed within 48 hours. Assistant Attorney General Scott Erickson said Carnevale signed a no-contact order to stay away from his accuser, adding that Carnevale has cooperated with investigators.

Carnevale is the fourth House lawmaker to face criminal charges this year. He refused to respond to questions from reporters after exiting the courtroom. He's due back in court on Feb. 15.

Police say Carnevale's accuser is the ex-wife of a Providence police officer. Carnevale used to socialize with the woman when she was married, according to authorities. Carnevale, who is divorced, is a retired Providence police sergeant.

Carnevale called the woman on July 28, asked if he could come over and she agreed, police said. The woman claims once Carnevale came over, he sexually assaulted her while she resisted, police said.

Carnevale told police the encounter was consensual, authorities said.

Carnevale also has had encounters with the law involving his ex-wife, who accused him of physical abuse. In one application for a restraining order, Jennifer Reed, 52, wrote that Carnevale had been arrested three times by North Kingstown police. All Reed's abuse complaints were voluntarily withdrawn, court records show.

North Kingstown police said Carnevale's arrest records have been expunged.

Criminal charges have been filed against three other lawmakers this year.

Police arrested Rep. Dan Gordon, R-Portsmouth, in September after learning that 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 he received probation for other traffic related-charges.

The same 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.

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. The case is headed to trial.