Teacher guilty in mock hanging
Star Ledger ^ | 2-10-2006 | WILLIAM KLEINKNECHT

A Newark substitute teacher who forced a second-grader to stand on a chair and tightened a string around the child's neck in a mock hanging has been convicted of disorderly persons offenses and could face jail time, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Albert Coleman, 61, of East Orange, was convicted Tuesday in a bench trial before Superior Court Judge Dennis Carey of simple assault and disorderly conduct, said Mark Ali, an assistant Essex County prosecutor.

Ali, who heads the office's child-abuse unit, said the incident occurred March 29, 2004, as Coleman was overseeing the boy, now 9, in an after-school program at the Elliott Street School.

Coleman, who wanted to punish the child for not following instructions to do his homework, asked him if he knew what "strangulation" was and then forced him to stand on a chair, Ali said.

A string that had been used for a decoration was hanging from a light fixture above the chair with one end in a loop like a noose, the prosecutor said. Coleman slipped the string around the child's neck and pulled it tight by kicking the child's chair, Ali said.

"The child was crying hysterically afterward," Ali said. "The wound from the string went about a third of the way around his neck."

The incident came to the attention of school officials immediately after it occurred.

Coleman, who did not testify at the trial, gave a different version of the event in his testimony before a grand jury on Nov. 9, 2004.

The teacher said he was just playing with the child and that the string was never around his neck, according to a transcript of the testimony Ali entered into evidence in the trial.

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