Nassau prosecutors yesterday unveiled an indictment of the owner and manager of a Hicksville school where a 2-year-old girl choked on a carrot and later died at a hospital last year.
Eugene Formica, owner of Carousel Day School, and Kathryn Cordaro, its manager, pleaded not guilty in Nassau County Court to a felony charge of reckless assault of a child by a day care provider and misdemeanor charges of second degree reckless endangerment, misrepresentation by a day care provider and not having a required license.
The school faces the same charges and up to $25,000 in fines.
Formica and Cordaro were charged with the same crimes by the district attorney’s office last May, but the felony charge had to go to the grand jury. The indictment was handed up Feb. 23 and unsealed in court yesterday. The pair are free on $5,000 bail each.
The felony carries a maximum sentence of 1 to 4 years in prison. Each misdemeanor has a maximum sentence of 1 year.
The indictment stemmed from the death of Olivia Raspanti at Carousel last March 17. Authorities said the toddler plucked a baby carrot from a teacher’s bag, ate it and choked. She died six hours later at Nassau University Medical Center.
Formica and Cordaro didn’t respond to questions as they left court. Their attorneys said the charges were unwarranted.
“This is preposterous,” said Eric Franz, a Manhattan attorney for Cordaro. “It’s an abuse of power by the government.”
Formica’s attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, said the teacher who brought the carrots to class, Marian Koumou, was given immunity to testify before the grand jury. “We’re not saying she did anything wrong, but somehow it doesn’t make a lot of sense” she wasn’t charged, Gann said.
Koumou did not respond to a phone message.
Prosecutors declined to comment. Authorities say the school had unsafe conditions and too few teachers, and lacked a proper license to run a day care center for children under 2 years and 9 months old. The school became a licensed day care center in September.
Authorities also say Cordaro didn’t do enough to help Olivia after she choked. A report by Nassau Child Protective Services, however, said the school’s teachers tried to save Olivia and called her death a “tragic incident.”
Thomas Foley, a Garden City attorney for Olivia’s parents, Lisa and Anthony Raspanti of Hicksville, who are suing the day care center, said the family was pleased by the charges. My clients are just happy that the grand jury heard all the story, instead of CPS who only heard half,” Foley said.