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Guilty pleas in tot's death at Hicksville day care

Lisa and Anthony Raspanti leave court after day

Lisa and Anthony Raspanti leave court after day care managers pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Lisa Raspanti blinked back tears Monday morning as she watched the owner of the day care center where her daughter choked last year plead guilty to endangering the children in his care. The two-year-old girl later died at a hospital.

Eugene Formica, the owner of Carousel Day School in Hicksville, and Kathryn Cordaro, its manager, both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for running an unlicensed child care center. They will not serve time in jail.

"No court proceeding will ever bring Olivia back, but after 18 months, they were glad to hear Mr. Formica admit that his reckless acts led to the death of their daughter," said Joseph Conway of Mineola, who represents Olivia's parents, Lisa and Anthony Raspanti.

Formica pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless endangerment, while Cordaro pleaded guilty to violating the state social services law. They are to be sentenced by Acting State Supreme Court Justice James McCormack Nov. 15.

Carousel Day School, which pleaded guilty as a corporation to second-degree reckless endangerment and two counts of violating the state social services law, will pay a $15,000 fine, according to Marc Gann of Mineola, an attorney for Formica and Carousel.

Prosecutors said Olivia Raspanti plucked a baby carrot from a teacher's bag on March 17, 2009, ate it and choked. She died six hours later at Nassau University Medical Center.

Prosecutors said the school had unsafe conditions and too few teachers, and lacked a proper license to run a day care center for children younger than 2 years and 9 months old. The school, which remains open, became a licensed day care center in September.

Olivia's parents, who have filed a civil suit in the case, left without comment Monday.

As she left the courtroom, Cordaro said that she loved Olivia and her mother and that she would "forgive them for what they did." Cordaro's attorney Eric Franz, of Manhattan, later explained that Cordaro believes the Raspanti family has told lies about her and she forgives them for that. He would not be more specific.

"They don't ask for her forgiveness, and they don't want her forgiveness," said Thomas Foley of Garden City, a civil attorney for the Raspantis. "She seems to think she's a martyr here, but she's forgotten that she's the criminal defendant."