Private music teacher from Newtown arraigned for inappropriate relationship with underage student
A music teacher from Newtown was arraigned Thursday on allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student 51 years his junior. Richard Neal is charged with three counts of sexual assault, three counts of delivering alcohol to a minor, three counts of enticing a minor by computer and one count of tampering with evidence. Newtown police arrested him Wednesday.
The victim is a 17-year-old girl who'd been taking private guitar lessons from Neal for four years at the Fairfield School of Music and his home, according to Neal’s arrest warrant. Things allegedly turned sexual in June.
“The investigation commenced once a family member of the victim became aware of their relationship and reported it to the police,” Lt. Liam Seabrook told News 12.
Police said detectives conducted several interviews along with searches of Neal's home, where some of the incidents occurred. Text messages allegedly confirmed dates and times of these encounters, during which Neal is accused of giving the victim alcohol.
During Neal’s court appearance at Danbury Superior Court, his attorney said Neal "vehemently denies some, if not all, of the allegations."
But according to his warrant, Neal admitted to getting intimate with the victim, stressing it was consensual and just one part of their close connection.
“He was cooperative with the investigation for the most part,” Seabrook said, adding that he spoke with investigators multiple times. But Neal is accused of disposing of evidence at the Newtown Transfer Station before police searched his home, the warrant said.
Seabrook told News 12 police were not familiar with Neal before this case.
But Neal does have one other pending criminal case. In July, Fairfield police arrested him for allegedly violating a restraining order. The victim had gotten one in civil court while the investigation was pending. According to the warrant, Neil sent the victim's mother a letter apologizing for what had happened, writing in part, "I would give anything to go back in time and make better choices and undo my mistake. My judgement and decision making were clouded by my deep depression and loneliness."
That violation was brought up at Neal's arraignment during arguments over bond. The judge set it at $200,000 and said if Neal gets out, he can't have any contact with minors. The judge also issued a protective order for the victim. Neal is due back in court Sept. 13.
News 12 reached out to the Fairfield School of Music about Neal but has not heard back yet. According to his warrant, the school’s owner told police Neal was one of his most popular teachers and there hadn’t been issues with him in the past. He also said that after learning of the allegations, Neal would likely be fired soon.