The former chief and a former lieutenant in the South Coventry volunteer fire department have been charged with sexual assault after allegedly engaging in sexual conduct with some of the department's junior members, police said Thursday. The former chief, Joseph M. Carilli, 53, of Wangumbaug Drive, was charged with second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.
Joe Fragoso, 35, of Root Road, was charged with second-degree sexual assault. Both men turned themselves in at Coventry police headquarters after learning warrants had been issued for their arrests.
The Junior Firefighter program has been suspended, town officials said.
Carilli was arraigned Thursday at Superior Court in Rockville, where Judge Edward J. Mullarkey reduced his bail to $250,000 from $500,000. He also gave Carilli the option of posting 10 percent, or $25,000, with the clerk to be released.
Fragoso posted $250,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 27.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Leaming pressed for a higher bail for Carilli, arguing that he faces the possibility of "an extended period of incarceration, and it's likely he will flee." Leaming also said Carilli's relationship with the minor continued even as rumors swirled about a police investigation.
Carilli's lawyer, Jeremy Donnelly, told the judge that Carilli is disabled and receives Social Security disability payments. He has seven children that range in age from 1 to 32, Donnelly said. All but one live locally.
Should Carilli post bail, Mullarkey ordered that he submit to electronic monitoring and not leave his house except for medical and legal appointments. He also ordered not to have contact with any teens.
Mullarkey asked if Carilli has any teen-aged children living at his home, but Donnelly said he did not.
The warrants for their arrests were sealed for 14 days.
Both men were members of the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association, which is commonly referred to as the South Coventry Fire Department. Carilli was chief of the department from June 2006 to November 30, 2012. He then became the department's training officer, overseeing the department's training program.
Fragoso has been a fire lieutenant with the department since June 2012. Town Manager John Elsessor said he was told that they turned in their resignations last week.
Police said their investigation found that both men had sexual relations with members of the department's Junior Firefighter program.
Police said the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association's current leadership cooperated with the police investigation.
Coventry Police Chief Mark Palmer said the investigation continues and asked that anyone with further information call police at 860-742-7331 and ask for Sgt. Michael McDonagh or Det. Michael Hicks.
Carilli resigned Sept. 27, 2012 after an investigation by Coventry police into allegations that he used graphic language when speaking to female employees at a Dunkin' Donuts store on Main Street in Coventry.
A store manager and two workers said Carilli on several occasions used language that made them uncomfortable, a town official said. The town council subsequently called for Carilli's resignation. The Coventry Volunteer Fire Association accepted Carilli's resignation with regret.
Earlier this month, the Coventry town council again took up the issue of Carilli and voted unanimously to tell the fire association that it had no confidence in Carilli holding any leadership position.
Although the council has limited authority over the fire department, council member Lisa Thomas said it was important for the town's governing board to take a stand in favor of protecting women.
"Girls in Coventry or anywhere need to feel that it is safe to come forward and talk about these things that are happening to them," Thomas said. Coventry is a small town and the allegations will have a significant impact on many people.
"Girls and women need to know that if they file a complaint, it will be honored," she said. "I want my daughters to feel they will be supported by their elected officials and people in authority should they ever be exposed, God forbid, to something like this."
In October 1984, when Carilli was 24, he was charged with three counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of risk of injury to a minor after the parents of a 14-year-old girl filed a complaint with police.
Carilli pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of risk of injury to a minor and on Feb. 27, 1985 was sentenced to a year in prison. He served eight months in prison and three months in a halfway house.
In 2006, after his election as chief caused some discontent in the fire department, Carilli said of the incident and his arrest: "It was a very bad situation and it should have never occurred. I've changed my life 180 degrees since then."
The junior firefighters range in age from 14-18. State law dictates what the teens may do, said Noel Waite, the town's emergency services coordinator.
Those who are 16-18 years old are allowed to help firefighters at scenes and even fight brush fires as long as they have been trained, Waite said.
The Coventry Volunteer Fire Association suspended the program last week at the suggestion of the police, he said.
"That will give them some time to put in some controls," Elsessor said.
The purpose of the program is to give teen-agers public safety experience and create of pool of potential new firefighters.
Some junior firefighters have gone on to medical school and received scholarships for college, Elsessor said. Others have become Coventry firefighters.
Written by The Hartford Courant