A former teacher accused of groping five girls at a Ditmas Park public school agreed to a guilty plea on Monday – and then quickly changed his mind.
Omil Carrasquillo, 38, is being tried at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on charges that he sexually abused girls aged 8 to 11 years old between November 2012 and September 2014. He was a science teacher at Public School 249 on Marlborough Road near Caton Avenue when the allegations arose from some of his students, who said he touched them inappropriately. The trial is continuing Tuesday.
Before opening arguments began Monday, Justice Deborah Dowling accepted an “open plea” under which Carrasquillo would plead guilty and agree to serve five years in prison. Carrasquillo was given until the end of the day to decide whether to take the offer from prosecutors.
After a recess, relatives of Carrasquillo came back into the courtroom with red eyes and long faces, foreshadowing the defendant’s decision to accept the plea, which also included five years of post-release supervision and registration as a sex offender.
Carrasquillo looked at his teary-eyed family in the back of the courtroom, then looked back again before telling Dowling he accepted the plea offer and would plead guilty.
“The truth will prevail!” a family member yelled suddenly. After that remark, the former teacher apparently reconsidered.
“I withdraw that plea,” he said as his family gasped behind him. “I’m not guilty…I’m innocent!”
The trial began. 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.
In her opening argument, Assistant District Attorney Ebonie Legrand told jurors they will hear from the girls Carrasquillo touched. “You’ll see with your own eyes,” she said, “what is likely the most traumatizing experience they’ve had to endure in their short lives.”
The girls’ parents “had to face their worst nightmares,” she said. “He continued to teach, and he continued to touch.”
Defense lawyer Anthony LaPinta told jurors that Carrasquillo was having disciplinary troubles with his students and finally took action, leading one girl to attempt to storm out of the room. Carrasquillo met her in the doorway, touching her shoulders. She yelled, “Don’t touch me!” and ran out of the room, not to return for the day, LaPinta said.
LaPinta said Carrasquillo was “swept in the avalanche of outrage” after that event.
Carrasquillo resigned from teaching after his arrest in 2014. He had started working at PS 249 in 2006. He lives in Selden, Long Island with his wife and son.
This story is a collaboration of Brooklyn News Service and BKLYNER.