NEW BRITAIN - A retired Central Connecticut State University professor arrested after he allegedly told students to lie about a theater accident that injured a young woman is seeking to have the case dismissed through a court diversion program.
A hearing will be held Sept. 19 to determine whether former Theater professor Thomas Callery can enter an accelerated rehabilitation program. During the hearing, the female student who was injured will be allowed to speak, Callery’s attorney, William Gerace, said Thursday during his client’s first appearance in New Britain Superior Court.
If Callery is granted entrance into the program, the charges against him will be dismissed after a year if he successfully finishes the requirements. Callery was charged July 12 with second-degree reckless endangerment and interfering with police, which could result in an 18-month prison sentence if he is convicted, court officials said.
Callery retired from the school as university police were investigating an accident that occurred on March 28 in the school’s Black Box Theatre, a space that allows students to hone their craft.
According to a warrant for his arrest, the accident left a female theater student with three fractures in her back, a bruised lung and a gash on her head that required five stitches. The young woman was under Callery’s direction when she walked out onto beam high above the stage to remove lights, the warrant said. She was walking on the beam without any safety harness or support rails to retrieve a light when she tripped on obstacles on the beam and fell onto a catwalk, then to the stage and then to the floor.
Callery allegedly told the girl, who was on the floor crying, that she was to tell first responders that she fell from a ladder, the warrant said. Callery also told three other students to tell police the same version of how the accident occurred, the warrant said. The injured girl initially stuck with the story but a different student spoke up and told responding officers what actually happened and that Callery had instructed them to lie, the document said.
Callery was initially vague with his answers to police and but during a later second interview he admitted that he had allowed the students to walk on the beam without safety equipment. He told investigators that there was no safety equipment available to students and that the school had repeatedly denied his requests to purchase some. School officials contend the Theater Department does have safety equipment and Callery didn’t request money to purchase safety equipment after attending required safety training in December.
Callery was placed on administrative leave shortly after the accident occurred.
Callery retired June 1, the day after the warrant was completed.
He was the Theatre Department chairman from 2010 to 2014 and was teaching classes at the time the accident occurred. He had taught at the school since 1983 and had held tenure since 1989, Palmer said.
His salary level as an associate professor just before he retired was $98,664.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.