New London firefighter Alfred P. Mayo pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Norwich Wednesday to charges that he assaulted a man on June 14 after a dispute at the Montville Polish Club.
The 33-year-old Norwich resident, who had waged a public fight for his firefighting job two years ago, has been suspended without pay by the City of New London pending the outcome of his case.
His attorney, Ronald F. Stevens, said he wants to expedite Mayo's case so that Mayo can return to work soon.
"I just want to make sure Mr. Mayo is treated fairly and appropriately," Stevens said.
Stevens, with Mayo standing by his side, made the brief statement outside of the courthouse after Judge Kevin P. McMahon continued the case to July 24.
The state police report of the Polish Club incident remains sealed because a judge has not yet found there is probable cause to prosecute Mayo. However, prosecutor Christa L. Baker said the incident appears to have stemmed from a dispute about Mayo's job.
Mayo was playing poker at the Polish Club when he and the victim began arguing, according to Baker.
"There is a dispute about who started it," Baker said.
Stevens said an argument started when the other man made derogatory comments about Mayo using race to keep his job in New London.
"That obviously is going to stand up the hair on the back of Al's neck," Stevens said.
The unidentified male victim went to the parking lot and claims that Mayo punched him from behind. Mayo claims the other man ripped his shirt off and charged at him. The victim suffered an injury to the left side of his face, according to Baker. Mayo is charged with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace.
Stevens said Mayo suffered a concussion and abrasions from the scuffle and at some point sought treatment at the hospital. Mayo initially left the scene after being told by management to leave, but returned to cooperate with the investigation when called by police, Stevens said.
Mayo, who sat quietly in the courtroom until his case was called, declined to comment. Stevens said he has advised Mayo not to discuss the case.
Mayo was fired by the City of New London in December 2011 just days before his graduation from the state fire academy. After his termination, Mayo claimed he had been mistreated by the city and fire academy because he is black.
The city rehired him in May 2012, after Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said new information had come to light, including a report on the fire academy that concluded Mayo may have been treated unfairly during his training.
Mayo has a past criminal history that includes a 1995 conviction for sixth-degree larceny and a 2001 conviction for accessory to fourth-degree larceny. Court records show that in the 2001 case, Mayo was initially charged with third-degree larceny, a felony. That charge was later dropped in favor of the misdemeanor.
He paid fines in each case, records show. The accessory to fourth-degree larceny was included on Mayo's job application to the New London Fire Department, dated May 5, 2010, with a note reading, "I gave individuals a ride & they stole items. I got accessory charge." The petty larceny conviction is not included on his application but is part of his personnel file that includes a criminal background check.
Stevens said he did not think Mayo's prior record would have any impact on the current case.
"He has no history of violent behavior," Stevens said.
Mayo has a history with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, which suspended his license in 2010 for an accumulation of speeding tickets. Records show his license was suspended from Sept. 1, 2010, through Nov. 14, 2010, because he got four speeding tickets within a two-year period.
He presently has a pending citation for failure to slow down or pull over for an emergency vehicle.
New London's chief administrative officer, Jane Glover, said neither she nor Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio were involved in the initial vetting process that led to Mayo's hiring.
She also said it would be unfair to Mayo to speculate on what type of discipline would be involved if he were convicted of a crime. She said she and Finizio would look at past practice in the city and take "whatever action is deemed necessary."
"Right now he is an employee of the City of New London," Glover said.
Following his June 14 arrest, New London Fire Chief Henry Kydd suspended Mayo per department policy that the chief said has been used in previous incidents involving firefighters being arrested.
"We treat every one of these incidents the same," stressed Kydd, who added that Montville police contacted the fire department about the incident.
Finizio said he spoke with Kydd about the arrest and approved the fire chief's recommendation to suspend Mayo. The suspension without pay is warranted, Finizio said, based on the fact that Mayo works in the field of public safety and those employees are held to a high standard.