After more than two painful years of facing criminal charges for doing his job, Juvenile Counselor Rafael Pasols, an SSEU Local 371 member, was found not guilty on all charges of improperly restraining a 17-year-old resident at the Horizon Juvenile Center in the Bronx.
Pasols, a Juvenile Counselor with a clean 15-year disciplinary record, was prosecuted over an incident on Nov. 8, 2014, when he restrained an out-of-control seventeen-year-old Horizon Juvenile Center resident. Just before, the resident had hit Pasols on the face with a telephone and said he was about to “snuff” [beat] him.
Pasols was never disciplined by the Administration for Children’s Services. He continued to serve as a Juvenile Counselor as the case proceeded.
But, on orders from the Justice Center in Albany, the Bronx prosecutor attempted to portray the restraint as an illegal chokehold. The assistant district attorney initially brought six charges, but during trial these were reduced to three. That including dropping the most serious charge against Pasols–criminal obstruction of breathing–harassment and falsification of records, a misdemeanor. A jury in Bronx Criminal Court found Pasols not guilty on all charges.
SSEU Local 371 was at the forefront of advocating and agitating on behalf of Pasols from the beginning of the case. The union fought hard for Pasols for the last two years, providing his legal defense and filling the courtroom with supporters in a show of solidarity. Pasols’ defense team, using video footage, showed that the restraint was performed correctly.
The verdict was a crucial victory, sending a message to the Justice Center that bringing charges against a member for merely doing his job is not only costly to the city and traumatic to our members but is likely to end in defeat.
Reacting to the verdict, SSEU Local 371 President Anthony Wells said, “Justice is served. But this case should never been brought to court. This was a prosecution of a man doing his job: protecting kids and his co-workers.”