PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former state Rep. John Carnevale was arraigned in Providence Superior Court Friday on three charges of perjury and one charge of filing false documents stemming from a state police investigation that was triggered by a Target 12 report last June.
Dressed in a black sweatshirt and dark jeans, Carnevale pleaded not guilty in front of Superior Court Magistrate Patricia Lynch Harwood. He was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 23. He declined to comment Friday.
The three perjury charges, all felonies, stem from statements he made to the Providence Board of Canvassers in July as they tried to determine whether he was an eligible voter at a two-family property he owns at 150 Barbara St. in Providence. Prosecutors claim Carnevale knowingly made false statements regarding his residence for voting purposes, rental income he earned at a property in Johnston, and his use of the first-floor apartment on Barbara Street.
Prosecutors also allege he filed a false document with the city when he received an owner-occupied tax break on the property.
- Read: The full indictment
In an unusual decision, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin attended the arraignment himself, watching as his former House colleague faced the judge. He said the allegations against Carnevale “go to the core of public trust.”
“I never enjoy prosecuting a former colleague, but the reality is I got elected to a job, too, of the public’s trust,” Kilmartin said after the hearing. “And when someone else violates them, whether I know them or not, I have the duty to proceed and we did.”
Carnevale, a 55-year-old Democrat, turned himself into the Rhode Island State Police barracks in Scituate Thursday after learning a warrant was issued for his arrest. Earlier in the day, detectives visited two properties in Providence and Johnston owned by Carnevale.
Carnevale is represented by attorney Peter Petrarca, another former Democratic state representative.
Carnevale, who represented House District 13, was the subject of an undercover Target 12 investigation last June that raised serious questions about whether he lived within his district at the property on Barbara Street in Providence or at a single-family home on Greenville Avenue in Johnston that is located in House District 44. He failed to disclose his ownership of the latter property to the R.I. Ethics Commission for nine years.
Target 12’s investigation found Carnevale and several vehicles registered to him at the home in Johnston, but he maintained that he regularly slept in the basement area of the Barbara Street property. He claimed that he used the bathroom and kitchen of the first-floor apartment that he rented out.
- Related: Undercover probe finds Providence lawmaker misleading either voters or Ethics Commission
- Also: Board removes Carnevale from Providence voter rolls
- More: State Police launch probe into Carnevale
The Providence Board of Canvassers eventually voted to kick Carnevale off the city’s voter rolls due to “inconsistencies” in the evidence about where he actually lives. In July, he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. The city also stripped him of the owner-occupied tax break when he failed to turn in paperwork verifying his residency.
The state police confirmed an investigation was opened into Carnevale following the Target 12 report. Detectives pulled land records regarding the Johnston property as well as paperwork from the Board of Canvassers. They also interviewed former tenants of 150 Barbara St.
A retired Providence police officer, Carnevale was elected in 2008 and remained a member of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s leadership team until late July, when the speaker cut ties with him over the residency scandal. He is the brother of the late Anthony Carnevale, a former lawmaker and judge whose name adorns an elementary school in District 13. Carnevale was succeeded by Democrat Ramon Perez.
This isn’t the first time Carnevale has been indicted. In 2011, he was charged with first-degree sexual assault, but the case was dropped after his accuser died before trial. Officials say she died of natural causes.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.