By Lisa Flaugh and Paul Frangipane
Closing arguments are set for Wednesday in the trial of a former teacher who went to the witness stand to staunchly deny charges that he forcibly touched five girls who were students at a Ditmas Park elementary school.
“I never, ever, ever touched a child in an inappropriate way,” Omil Carrasquillo, 38, of Selden, testified Monday at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. “That’s disgusting.”
Carrasquillo was a teacher at PS 249, the Caton School, at 18 Marlborough Road. He was arrested Sept. 24, 2014, on charges that he forcibly touched five girls ages 8 to 11 starting in November 2012. In his testimony, Carrasquillo said that he would hug his students, give them high fives and pat them.
“Teachers can be friendly with students,” Carrasquillo said after he admitted he was having disciplinary issues in his classroom. He told a detective in 2014 that he touches “students in a positive way,” also giving them nicknames like “Planet X” “Baby” and “Grandpa.”
He said that students would also hug him from behind and occasionally jump on his back.
During cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Linda Weinman raised her voice as she asked Carrasquillo if he agreed that there are other methods to encourage students.
“They should get pats on the arm, pats on the head, pats on the leg, and be called `Baby?’ That’s your opinion, sir?” Weinman asked.
“Everything but the leg, ma’am,” he responded.
Prosecutors offered a much different picture of what happened in questioning one of the girls on Friday.
The witness, now 13, was asked by Assistant District Attorney Ebonie Legrand to retell her account of the incident involving her science teacher, Carrasquillo, in 2014. The girl, wearing a gray hoodie and jeans, her hair tight in a bun, took a deep breath, stood up and said, “He touched me on my vagina and on my breast.”
She testified that this occurred when she was a 10-year-old fourth grader. Then the prosecutor asked her to show the jury with her hands where she was touched.
Legrand asked if she was touched only once or if there were multiple times. The girl testified that the abuse took place twice; she said the defendant touched her once on her vagina and at a later time on her chest.
“How did you feel when he did these things?” Legrand asked.
“I felt really weird,” she said. “I didn’t know how to feel because my mother and I had never talked about those things before.”
“What things?” Legrand asked.
“Sex. We had never talked about sex before,” the witness said.
Legrand produced a photo of Carrasquillo’s desk, and the witness identified where the incident took place. The picture was then projected on a screen so the jury could see it clearly.
Defense attorney Anthony LaPinta asked the witness when she had Carrasquillo as her teacher — she replied that he had taught her in the third and fourth grades. He then asked the girl when she told her mother and sister about the abuse she had testified about and at what point in the school year. She said she didn’t remember.
After serving in the U.S. Army, Carrasquillo received a degree in justice studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and then studied to be a teacher. He worked at PS 249 for eight years before he resigned following his arrest, avoiding the reassignment office, where he could have continued to receive his salary.
“I was disgusted, disgusted with the education system,” he testified. “I gave them eight years.”
Closing arguments for the case were set for Wednesday at 10 a.m. before Justice Deborah Dowling. If convicted, Carrasquillo faces a maximum of three to seven years in prison for each child abused. In addition to sexual abuse, he is charged with child endangerment.
This story is a collaboration with Brooklyn News Service.