Former principal of Cedar Hill Elementary School, Dr. Colleen Mercurio, pleaded Nolo contendere (no contest) and was given a one-year filing on Wednesday morning at the Kent County District Courthouse as the result of a charge brought against her by the Warwick Police Department that she failed to report an incident of sexual abuse to the Department of Children, Youth and Families, which allegedly happened in 2016.
The one year filing, as described by her attorney Thomas Gulick, is a measure available in Rhode Island courts for first offenders that essentially means that Mercurio will have the charge against her dismissed and her record expunged if she does not receive any other charges against her within a one-year period. The filing is not a conviction, Gulick stressed.
“Everybody was satisfied with this result,” Gulick said on Wednesday. “We didn't need a costly trial and strain the town and possibly re-victimize certain witnesses.”
The family of the alleged victim involved in the misdemeanor provided the following comment:
"It’s our understanding that Dr Mercurio has resigned from Warwick Public Schools. Given that result coupled with the result of today’s [Wednesday's] hearing, we are pleased that this difficult period in our lives has come to an end. It’s unfortunate that this situation had to go this far, however, the safety of the children at Cedar Hill School has always been our primary focus."
It was confirmed on Wednesday that Mercurio is no longer employed by Warwick Public Schools, and that Stephen Kirby – the former Cedar Hill principal who had reassumed his position as principal following Mercurio’s arrest last November – will resume his responsibilities as principal for the time being.
Mercurio originally pled not guilty during her arraignment on Dec. 11 to the charge, which is a misdemeanor and could have resulted in an up to $500 fine and a possible one-year maximum prison sentence, but wound up accepting the deal for a one-year filing, which can only be offered by a city solicitor or a prosecutor to first-time misdemeanor offenders.