Two former counselors at the Glen Mills Schools were arrested Friday in connection with a brutal attack on a 17-year-old boy from Philadelphia who was in their care.
Christopher Medina, 31, of Kennett Square, and Patrick Raquet, 34, of West Chester, have been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and endangering a child's welfare.
If convicted, each could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine for the attack on the teen, which was caught on surveillance video.
"We entrusted the care of a juvenile to these two defendants, and rather than caring for him — as witnessed by about 30 people, and recorded by several cameras — they literally beat the breath out of him," said Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland.
The charging documents, as well as a description of the attack from state police, backs up what the victim told the Inquirer and Daily News last week: Medina hit the teen repeatedly in the head, then threw him over a couch while choking him with his sweatshirt and punching him. The teenager repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." More than 30 boys looked on.
Medina — who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 320 pounds — dragged the teen upstairs by the neck and tried to force him into a bathroom before sitting him on a couch. There, Raquet grabbed the boy's face and punched him.
The attack was unprovoked, Copeland said: "The video clearly shows that victim — this juvenile victim — was assaulted without even raising his hand."
At one point, she said, Medina's "full body weight" was on the boy's elbow.
State Police Lt. James Hennigan said Glen Mills officials were cooperating with police. He would not comment on whether additional school staffers could face charges.
Both Philadelphia and Delaware County have for now stopped sending boys to Glen Mills, a private residential program for male juvenile offenders.
Of the 383 males at the school, 143 are from Philadelphia and two are from Delaware County. Both counties are conducting their own investigations into the school's operations — and other jurisdictions are watching.
Chester County has also decided to suspend intake at Glen Mills, "based on a combination of historical concerns and the current incident," said Rebecca Brain, a spokeswoman for the county.
Lancaster County, which uses Glen Mills' Concordville location, is waiting to see what happens with the investigation "and factor that into future plans," said David Mueller, director of the county's juvenile probation office.
Philadelphia Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Keafer said that while the investigation is ongoing, the agency supports the decision to bring charges. "It's a serious incident and sends a clear message that child abuse is not tolerated," she said in an email.
Randy Ireson, executive director of Glen Mills Schools, declined to be interviewed Friday. Through a spokesman, he re-released a statement that the incident was "isolated" and "did not uphold our stringent ethical standards and protocols."
Last week, Ireson told the Inquirer and Daily News that there was no evidence that staff members interfered with the boy's breathing — something police contradicted on Friday.
Both Medina and Raquet were fired from Glen Mills last week. Four more staff members were suspended.
Leaving state custody on Friday afternoon, Medina declined to comment. Both he and Raquet were released on $200,000 bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for Sept. 20.
Leonard Hill, an attorney for the teen, said the arrests were "vindicating." His client is in physical therapy for injuries to his back and neck, he said, and has nightmares about the attack.
"A lot of the time, when children are in placement and they complain of abuse, there's no one who believes them because they're children who ran afoul of the law in the first place," Hill said.
"But many of these children come from difficult situations and difficult circumstances — black, poor whites, Hispanics," he said. "And these children, regardless of where they're from or what they've done, should still be able to enjoy the same rights as any other human being, as any other child."
In an interview last week, DHS Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa said she had spoken with staff and was confident in the well-being and safety of children currently at Glen Mills.
State records show that Glen Mills has fired at least 14 staffers and reprimanded nine more over at least 14 physical assaults on children in the last five years. City Councilwoman Helen Gym and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson have requested a full accounting of violence at Glen Mills from the school and the state, as well as a safety plan for the boys currently there.
"It is my belief that we may not have seen so much action had this incident not come to public light through the diligent work of the press," Gym said Friday. "These recent events underscore larger concerns about state oversight and the suitability of residential youth placements.