A Dix Hills man who recently pleaded guilty to punching a caseworker investigating a claim of child abuse last year was sentenced Wednesday to five months in jail, in a closely watched case that is the first of its kind in Suffolk County.
Jason Warshaw, 40, was sentenced by acting Family Court Justice Anthony S. Senft Jr. in Riverhead two months after pleading guilty to second-degree assault on a social services employee — a felony under a relatively new statute that was applied for the first time in county history — 19 months after the Mother’s Day 2017 attack.
That’s when Carlos Rivera, a Child Protective Services caseworker, said he visited Warshaw’s home and was greeted with a punch to the face that shattered his nose.
“At some level I am satisfied because at least some justice was served,” said Rivera, a 13-year veteran caseworker. “Of course, I think the sentence should have been a little harsher for him assaulting me, but at this point, I think justice was served.”
The sentence ends a long wait during which Rivera and dozens of members of his union attended more than 20 court hearings as the case progressed through trial and was presided over by three different judges.
Warshaw's attorney, Donald Mates of Hauppauge, said his client also is satisfied with the outcome, despite having to serve time in jail and being the first person to be prosecuted in the county under the more stringent statute.
“Child Protective Services was there involving an allegation of excessive corporal punishment,” Mates said of the altercation at his client's home, adding that Warshaw pleaded guilty in October after the trial started. “My client did plead guilty to charges involving his children and corporal punishment, and he’s happy that his children didn’t have to testify.”
Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said Wednesday: "We were able to prosecute this case under the law’s specific protections for social workers, who often face dangerous situations while out working to protect people. My office worked with the victim and the Association of Municipal Employees throughout this prosecution and we are happy to have reached a disposition that serves justice on behalf of the victim."
Warshaw also pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree assault causing injury to a social services employee, a D felony. Previously, the offense was classified as a misdemeanor until a law that went into effect in 2012 made it a felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison.
Mates said Warshaw will serve for five months and will be under supervision for five years.
The change in the law was designed to protect caseworkers like Rivera, who are not always welcomed when they must intervene on behalf of children.
“Every day 300 CPS Caseworkers in Suffolk County put themselves in harm’s way, serving the most vulnerable population in our county,” said Daniel Levler, president of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, whose members showed up in force at each hearing in support of Rivera. “The vicious assault on Carlos Rivera could happen to any one of them at any given day. While we are gratified that his assailant will finally serve prison time for his heinous crime, it’s imperative that the justice system vigorously enforces the new legislation and punishes violent offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
AME members also petitioned the judges and the Suffolk district attorney, arguing that Rivera’s case was a symbol of the plight of all caseworkers and many other public-sector workers.
Rivera said he relied on the support from his union since he was attacked, adding that he still finds his work on behalf of children rewarding.
“We get screamed at all the time in our line of duty,” he said. “Things have not changed. I am still doing my job as if this incident had never happened.”