Former NFA coach Anthony Facchini receives suspended sentence, probation

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Former Norwich Free Academy assistant coach Anthony Facchini received a fully suspended sentence and five years of probation Wednesday in connection with allegations that he had sexual relations with two minor students while working for NFA.

Facchini, 26, of 210 Broadway, Norwich, initially had faced two counts of second-degree sexual assault in connection with allegations from 2017 and 2018.

He pleaded no contest in December to one charge of risk of injury to a minor for his relationship with a female student who was 15 to 16 years old during his relationship with her. For that charge, he was sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence and probation. He also had pleaded no contest to a charge of reckless endangerment for his relationship with a female who was 17 to 18 years old. For that charge, he was sentenced Wednesday to a six-month suspended sentence and two years of probation. The sentences will be served concurrently.

He does not have to register as a sex offender.

Facchini addressed the court briefly during his sentencing in New London Superior Court, apologized and said he took full responsibility for his actions. He thanked Judge Hillary B. Strackbein, his attorneys and the state’s attorneys in the case and pledged to “prove myself” during his probation.

“I hope all involved will find healing in this disposition,” Facchini said.

Facchini's attorney, Bryan Fiengo, said Facchini realizes his relationships with the students were inappropriate, and his client was very cooperative throughout the proceedings. Facchini is attending mental health counseling and "has gone in a spiritual direction," Fiengo said.

He also said Facchini has no substance abuse issues and has clear goals to start his own business.

Judge Strackbein added that she has confidence that Facchini will comply with his probation requirements and be successful in the future.

Assistant State's Attorney Theresa Anne Ferryman said during the sentencing that Facchini's sentence was agreed upon by the state and in consultation with an attorney representing one of the victims. The second victim did not participate in the proceedings. Ferryman said the recommended sentence was "balanced" against the state facing some risk if the case went to trial.

The sentencing resolves all criminal proceedings in the controversy that had rocked NFA since the criminal investigation was launched in the summer of 2018 and extended to school administrators' quick dismissal of initial allegations that arose in April 2017.

Ferryman also made clear that the criminal proceeding against Facchini was separate from "the great deal of fanfare on how the case came about" at NFA. She said the charges and recommended sentence applied only to Facchini's "bad judgment" in his actions.

In June 2018, another coach at the academy reported to the state Department of Children and Families that Facchini allegedly was having sexual relations with a student.

During that investigation, police learned there was an earlier victim with whom Facchini had engaged in sexual relations in 2017.

Police obtained search and seizure warrants for extensive documents, computer equipment and cellphones connected to NFA’s internal investigation in April 2017, when school officials quickly dismissed the allegations without reporting to DCF as required by state law.

Head of School David Klein, then-Athletic Director Eric Swallow, Director of Student Affairs John Iovino and Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino had met to discuss the allegations and closed the case without reporting it to DCF or contacting the students' parents after both Facchini and the student denied the relationship.

Police on Feb. 25, 2019, charged Rodino with failure to report suspected child abuse, tampering with evidence, issuing a false statement and interfering with a police officer.

On Sept. 20, Norwich Superior Court Judge Nuala E. Droney dismissed the charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, because the one-year statute of limitations had expired on that charge. She granted Rodino’s application for accelerated rehabilitation, which would clear his record after one year if he avoids future arrest, on the remaining charges.

New London State’s Attorney Michael L. Regan had informed Norwich police at the time of Rodino’s arrest that requests for arrest warrants against three other NFA officials on charges of failure to report the incidents to DCF were rejected because the statute of limitations had expired.

A separate investigation by the NFA board of trustees cleared Klein of any wrongdoing and authorized him to oversee any administrative discipline connected with the school’s response to the allegations. Klein suspended Rodino with pay until he retired June 30, 2019, and suspended with pay then-Director of Curriculum Denise Grant and Director of Physical and Health Education Susan Hopkins-Terrell. Both had learned of the initial allegation and reported it to Rodino but not to DCF.

Hopkins-Terrell agreed to a three-day unpaid suspension prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year and was reinstated. Grant was ordered to take a 10-day unpaid suspension and was reassigned to a newly created position as director of college and career resource center.

Grant has filed a civil suit against NFA for allegedly retaliating against her for her cooperation with Norwich police during their investigation of the allegations against Facchini and the school’s response to the April 2017 initial allegation. Her lawsuit is pending.

c.bessette@theday.com

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