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Long IslandCrime

Retrial begins for Annika McKenzie, mom charged in teacher’s beating

Annika McKenzie is on trial in Nassau County

Annika McKenzie is on trial in Nassau County Court on charges of assaulting a Hempstead middle school teacher. McKenzie talks with her husband, Andre Mattis, after the trial adjourned for the day, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Photo Credit: David L. Pokress

An irate mother went to a Hempstead middle school in 2015 to confront a teacher and ended up beating the educator and knocking her unconscious, a Nassau County prosecutor said Wednesday at Annika McKenzie’s second trial.

McKenzie, 36, is charged with assault and other crimes that accuse her of beating math teacher Catherine Lang-Engelhardt, 60, at the Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School on April 15, 2015.

“She slammed Mrs. Engelhardt against the wall,” Assistant District Attorney Rachael Whalen told jurors in Nassau County Court in Mineola.

McKenzie then grabbed Lang-Engelhardt by the neck, choked her and punched her in the face, Whalen said during her opening statement. While Lang-Engelhardt was on the ground, McKenzie’s niece, who was a student at the school, kicked the teacher and hit her with a bottle, Whalen asserted.

Lang-Engelhardt lay unconscious for two minutes, Whalen said.

That’s not how it happened, McKenzie’s attorney, Donald Rollock of Mineola, told jurors before Court of Claims Justice Alan L. Honorof.

McKenzie went to the school to confront Lang-Engelhardt about an incident earlier that morning in which McKenzie’s daughter said the math teacher shoved a lacrosse stick into her body, Rollock said.

“But she never expected to run into a person who was out of control,” he said.

Rollock said Lang-Engelhardt was the aggressor and bumped into McKenzie during the confrontation.

McKenzie, he said, grabbed Lang-Engelhardt by the neck because she thought the teacher was going to hit her.

“The niece punched her and knocked her out,” said Rollock.

In May, a jury acquitted McKenzie of a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass, but was unable to agree on a verdict on any of the other, more serious charges.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Jerald S. Carter in Mineola declared a mistrial, forcing a retrial.

In addition to assault, McKenzie is charged with harassment and disorderly misconduct. The most serious assault charge carries a penalty of 2 to 7 years in prison.

At the time, jury foreman Roy Smith of Elmont said jurors could not agree on two areas: the word “intent” when it came to McKenzie’s actions, and whether she was justified in using force if she thought the teacher was about to hit her.

“That kind of hung a few people up, and the whole process,” Smith said in an interview after Carter declared the mistrial.

Lang-Engelhardt and McKenzie, who testified at McKenzie’s first trial, are scheduled to recount their stories again for the second jury, according to Whalen and Rollock.

The trial will resume Thursday afternoon.

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