A grainy video of the moment a New Jersey music teacher swung her foot up on a 12-year-old student’s chair just before it toppled over, bringing him crashing backward onto his head, has been released by authorities.
The video was initially interpreted a year ago by a judge as a proof of a simple assault that cost Kimberley Peschi, 42, her teaching job.
However, in May, that ruling was overturned by another judge who said it did not prove beyond doubt that Peschi’s intention had been to knock the chair over.
Now, according to various media outlets, the county prosecutors have released a video of the assault, which shows Peschi walk through the Belhaven Middle School dining hall in February 2017.
Peschi’s attorney has questioned the release of the video.
As she approaches one table, one student’s chair tips gradually back. She walks over and then swings her foot to the back of the chair. At that moment, the chair tips over.
Peschi, who had pleaded not guilty in the original case, had argued that she raised her foot in an attempt to right the chair. In a ruling on May 10, 2019, the judge said that her explanation was “plausible,” according to the Press of Atlantic City.
“I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted purposely, knowingly, or recklessly with regard to the injury to the child,” said Superior Court Judge John Rauh. “She certainly intended to put her foot on that chair, but the state of mind has to go to the injury to the child.”
Rauh’s ruling overturned the previous conviction which had cost Peschi—who now works in real estate—her teaching license.
According to NJ.com, Peschi was on a salary of over $77,000.
Peschi, of Galloway Township, did not respond to the last ruling, according to reports.
But her lawyer, Robert Agre, said Peschi was “greatly relieved,” according to the Press.
The school is located in Linwood, near Atlantic city.
A municipal judge in May 2018 had said that the same video footage was the strongest evidence of the deliberate nature of the incident, which occurred in February 2017, and had directed her to pay about $200 in fines and court fees—in addition to forfeiting her public employment in the fall of last year for going “well beyond corrective behavior.”
The boy’s mother, Michele Tourigian, said she was disgusted by the decision.
“The video does not lie,” she told reporters outside the court, according to the Press. “She assaulted my son.”
Peschi’s attorney, Robert Agre, expressed surprise at the release of the video by the prosecutor’s office, according to NJ.com, saying a confidentiality order had been placed on the video by a municipal court judge since it shows children.
“The consent order does not address release of even a redacted version of the security video,” Agre said.
The footage, which comes from a security camera in the dining hall, was released by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in response to a public records request, according to NJ.com.