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Annika McKenzie, mom charged in teacher’s beating, convicted

Annika McKenzie was found guilty of assault Thursday

Annika McKenzie was found guilty of assault Thursday for punching and choking a teacher at her daughter's middle school. Mckenzie is seen after the trial adjourned for the day, Wednesday, January 4, 2017. Credit: David L. Pokress

A Nassau County jury found a Hempstead woman guilty of assault Thursday for punching and choking a teacher at her daughter’s middle school.

Annika McKenzie, 36, showed no emotion as officers in a Mineola courtroom placed her in handcuffs.

Jurors deliberated for about five hours Thursday before convicting McKenzie of second-degree assault, second-degree harassment and disorderly conduct for confronting and attacking Catherine Lang-Engelhardt, 60, on April 15, 2015.

McKenzie’s first trial ended in a mistrial.

“I am relieved for schools everywhere, because no one should be able to come into anyone’s workplace and cause them physical harm,” Lang-Engelhardt said in a telephone interview.

McKenzie faces up to 7 years in prison on the assault charge when she is sentenced Feb. 10 in Nassau County Court.

Donald Rollock of Mineola, McKenzie’s attorney, said he was disappointed by the verdict. Given a second chance, he said his client would have handled the situation differently — taking her grievance to the principal’s office.

“She didn’t wish Mrs. Engelhardt any harm,” the attorney said.

McKenzie barged into the Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School in Hempstead to confront Lang-Engelhardt, a math teacher, about a hallway incident that involved McKenzie’s daughter earlier that day, Assistant District Attorney Rachael Whalen said in her opening statement.

McKenzie has said that she was upset that Lang-Engelhardt shoved a lacrosse stick into her daughter’s body. The teacher has denied that claim.

The confrontation quickly escalated after Lang-Engelhardt asked McKenzie to follow school protocols and get a pass from security guards.

McKenzie grabbed Lang-Engelhardt by the neck, choked her and punched her in the face, according to Whelan.

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, prosecutors said.

Lang-Engelhardt, who was unconscious for about two minutes, had a concussion.

During the trial, Rollock argued that McKenzie thought the teacher was going to hit her.

McKenzie’s husband and mother declined to comment Thursday.

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

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