A former psychologist from Farmington pleaded no contest Thursday to charges that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with a high school-aged woman who was his patient.
Daniel Affrunti, 68, of Crosswood Road, initially faced 12 counts of second-degree sexual assault for abusing his position as a psychotherapist and taking advantage of a vulnerable patient.
But because Affrunti voluntarily surrendered his license to the state Department of Public Health before much of the alleged sexual conduct occurred, the state would have struggled to prove its case at trial, prosecutor Donna Mambrino told Hartford Superior Court Judge Laura F. Baldini.
Affrunti’s lawyer, Richard Brown, argued that because Affrunti had surrendered his license no crime took place. He proposed having Affrunti apply for a special form of probation that would have allowed him to avoid a criminal conviction, but Brown noted that neither the judge nor the prosecutor was amenable.
Under the plea agreement Mambrino and Brown negotiated, Affrunti pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of second-degree unlawful restraint and two counts of second-degree breach of peace and received a three-year suspended prison sentence and two years of probation.
The charges were for two incidents in 2016 during which Affrunti held the young woman down and inappropriately touched her.
The woman initially went to police in September 2015 after an incident involving Affrunti, but later told police she did not want to pursue the case. As a result of that incident, Affrunti surrendered his license.
But the two continued to see each other, according to the warrant for Affrunti’s arrest, and on several occasions had sex. Eventually, other mental health professionals helped the young woman understand that Affrunti was taking advantage of his position and power over her, according to the warrant.
She went back to Farmington police in June 2017, the investigation began anew and Affrunti was arrested.
In court Thursday, the young woman told Baldini about the impact of Affrunti’s conduct on her life.
“I was 17 when I started seeing [Affrunti], a mere high school kid who was suffering from anxiety, depression” and other ailments, the young woman, now 22, told the judge. “Desperate for help, I began seeing a licensed mental health professional who could ease the pains of my illness and help me through everyday life.”
The woman said she began to talk about her struggles and share her worries, problems and anxieties with Affrunti.
“But instead of supplying help for me, Dr. Affrunti took advantage of my vulnerability, anxiety and depression and exploited me for emotional dependency and sex,” she said. “He twisted his authority into hurting me, an innocent and vulnerable patient.”
Affrunti, she said, “aggressively restrained me and acted like it was OK.”
The woman said her ailments grew worse while she saw Affrunti, and she developed post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic nightmares and other mental health disorders.
“Your honor, this man was a manipulative doctor who preyed on a weak patient who trusted him,” she said.
The woman has brought a civil lawsuit against Affrunti for malpractice. For that reason, Affrunti did not speak Thursday.