EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 1, 2013

Lawrence officer heading to Florida to face sex charge

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — City police officer Carlos Gonzalez won’t fight extradition and will return voluntarily to Florida to face a child rape charge.

As he tried to hide his face, Gonzalez was arraigned yesterday in Lawrence District Court as fugitive from justice.

After questioning by Judge Kevin Gaffney, Gonzalez, 48, a 24-year Lawrence police veteran, agreed to return to Haines City, Fla. where is he accused of sexually assaulting a girl while vacationing there in July.

On Wednesday, detectives from Haines City — which is located between Tampa and Orlando — flew to Massachusetts to arrest Gonzalez for sexual battery by a custodian on a person over age 12 and under age 18 and selling, delivering or serving alcohol to a minor.

The victim, who has not been identified by police, said she was assaulted on July 22, 2012 in a private home in Haines City.

After Florida detectives arrived, Gonzalez was arrested Wednesday afternoon at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover where he is studying to be a lawyer.

Defense attorney Walter Jacobs yesterday asked if Gonzalez could stay behind a partially-closed door in the prisoner’s dock, a move that would have allowed the police officer to be shielded from the public and media.

However, Gaffney rebuffed the request saying “I don’t see any reason to keep him back.”

“Bring him out,” he told court officers.

Once in the courtroom, as he was shackled and handcuffed, Gonzalez repeatedly tried to pull his coat up over his face and look away from the judge. “You have to put your hand down so I can see you,” Gaffney told him.

Gonzalez admitted he was the person named in the Florida arrest warrant and that he was not under the influence of any drugs, alcohol or medications that would cloud his judgment yesterday morning.

By agreeing to go to Haines City and face charges, Gonzalez will now be held without bail for about a week while arrangements are made with a transport team from Florida.

During Gonzalez’s arraignment yesterday, Daron Fraser, another Lawrence police officer facing criminal charges, sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery. Immediately after the arraignment, Fraser left.

Gonzalez and Fraser are among four Lawrence police officers who currently on paid administrative leave from the department as they face criminal charges. Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla and officer P.J. Lopez were indicted in September for felony offenses.

In December, after the victim filed a report with Lawrence police, an immediate investigation into Gonzalez was launched. While Lawrence police did not have jurisdiction, the fact that Gonzalez was a Lawrence police officer warranted an investigation, Police Chief John Romero said.

Gonzalez, for the time being, will remain on paid administrative leave from his $60,000-per-year job. If he is indicted in Florida, the city can halt his pay.

At prosecutor Kim Gillespie’s request, a copy of the Florida warrant and police report from Haines City was impounded yesterday in Lawrence District Court.

Previously scheduled for today, a hearing to determine if Fraser will face criminal charges for assaulting a superior officer on Jan. 27 was postponed. Fraser allegedly “belly-bumped” a sergeant in the 90 Lowell St. police station after an argument over a television being on and whether a door should be closed.

Fraser was previously convicted of abusing his ex-girlfriend and spent 29 months on paid administrative leave, wracking up more than $150,000 in paychecks without working. Fraser earns $60,000 annually.

Deputy Chief Bonilla, who earns $140,000 annually, was indicted on felony charges in September in an ongoing investigation into Mayor William Lantigua and his administration. Bonilla is accused of swapping 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets with a Lantigua friend. The state inspector general said the city lost $30,000 in the deal.

Also in September, Lopez, who earns $60,000, was indicted by a federal grand jury. He is accused of making arrangements with a local tow company to have cars he ticketed towed in exchange for a “stream of benefits,” including a $4,000 snow plow.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.