The fate of the sexual assault case against John Carnevale remains unclear after the unexpected death of the Johnston Representative’s 46-year-old accuser. The woman, a mother of two, died from a pulmonary aneurysm, according to Johnston Police Chief Richard Tamburini.
When reached for comment yesterday, Tamburini said he was unsure how the death would affect the case, in which Carnevale has been charged with one count of first-degree and one count of second-degree sexual assault, and one count of assault with the intent to commit sexual assault.
Without the woman present during court proceedings, Carnevale would have no chance to cross-examine his accuser. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in November and was released on $50,000 bail with surety.
“We’re waiting to hear from the Attorney General because it’s their decision,” Tamburini said.
The chief did say, however, that in similar instances, he has seen cases dropped. There were no witnesses to the alleged incident, and Carnevale was indicted essentially based on the woman’s testimony. Tamburini has never seen this situation involving sexual assault, though, and to lose all evidence with the deceased is unfamiliar territory.
“I have encountered cases where the victim passed and in most of the cases there is other cooperating evidence, other witnesses and evidence you could use without the victim,” he said.
Despite the loss of testimony, the Attorney General isn’t ready to call the case off just yet.
“As of now there’s been no change in the status of the case at this time. We have to take a look at the whole case before a decision can be made,” said Amy Kempe, public information officer for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
The accuser filed the initial complaint against Carnevale on Aug. 1, four days after she said the alleged attack took place. In her account to Johnston Police, the woman claimed that Carnevale, Godfather to her son, called her and asked to come over on the evening of July 28. When he arrived, she said he appeared intoxicated and made sexual advances. She says she rebuffed those advances, but claimed that Carnevale persisted and attempted to rape her. When she resisted, the victim said he masturbated in front of her and forced her face up to his genitalia.
In October, the same week of his indictment by a Providence County grand jury, Carnevale vehemently denied the charges.
“I have committed no crime and I will prove that to all of my constituents and to all the citizens of the state of Rhode Island in a court of law,” he said at the time.
The retired Providence Police sergeant declined to comment yesterday on the advice of his attorney, and his lawyer was quoted in the Providence Journal, saying that they would make no comment at this time out of respect for the woman’s family.