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Former Newport naval officer in plea talks in child sex case

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Courtesy: U.S. Navy / Dept. of Defense

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A former Naval War College faculty member accused in a child sex and pornography case has asked for a delay in his trial because he is in plea negotiations with prosecutors.

Ronald Zenga, 44, previously of Middletown, was indicted last year on eight counts including enticement or coercion of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity, as well as distribution and possession of child pornography.

On Thursday, Zenga’s attorney John Calcagni asked that the trial – scheduled for later this month – get pushed back.

“As grounds, the defense avers that the parties are currently in the midst of plea negotiations,” Calcagni wrote.

Zenga pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in October, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond ordered him to remain behind bars pending the outcome of the case.

An indictment handed up last September accuses Zenga of taking a minor across state lines – and even another country – for sex. Prosecutors accuse Zenga of taking the victim from Rhode Island to Texas, Florida and Cuba. He was a lieutenant commander in the Navy and a helicopter pilot, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson.

The indictment states the offenses took place between the fall of 2016 and October 2018, when Zenga was arrested. Tax records show Zenga purchased a home in Middletown in 2014, and it has since been sold.

On Friday, U.S. District Chief Judge John McConnell signed off on the request for a delay and reset Zenga’s trial for May.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

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