RACINE — After being fired twice from the Racine County Juvenile Detention Center for alleged use of excessive force, Ray Anthony Munoz has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery for using knee strikes against a teenage inmate in the abdomen while leading the teenager back to his cell in June 2017.
An eyewitness told police that the inmate had spit at Munoz and was resisting before being kneed in the abdomen, according to a criminal complaint.
Both Racine County Circuit Court Judge Robert Repischak and Defense Attorney Aneeq Ahmad acknowledged that Wednesday’s conviction would probably end Munoz’s 15-year career of working in juvenile detention facilities.
The original charges filed against Munoz were for felony physical abuse of a child intentionally causing bodily harm, but the state prosecutor agreed to amend the charge down to misdemeanor battery.
On Wednesday, Munoz, 47, was given a sentence of one year of probation, with requirements that Munoz receive anger management counseling and not apply for any jobs in law enforcement or correctional facilities. He also was ordered to pay a $200 fine, which Repischak was aimed at covering court fees.
Fired, rehired, fired
Munoz had previously been fired from the Racine County Juvenile Detention Center for using excessive force after he reportedly had keys in his hand when he struck a inmate in the arm in 2009. Munoz was later rehired preceding the June 2017 incident, after which he was fired again.
After Munoz was criminally charged in March 2018, Hope Otto, Racine County’s human resources director, said that the county changed its hiring practices that would have prevented Munoz from being re-hired.
“First, we no longer just do a criminal background check we also do a caregiver background check. We also work with our child welfare unit to ensure there are no allegations or substantiations regarding child abuse or neglect,” she explained in an email. “Lastly, we have converted all contract employees to county employees effective Sept. 1 so we will no longer have two separate employment protocols.”
While speaking with a police officer investigating the incident, Munoz said he started to consider “Maybe I am wrong,” after the officer repeatedly told Munoz that he never had to use knee strikes with adult inmates in jail. He later admitted that the June 2017 knee strikes were “not necessary” to gain control of the inmate.
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“Never would I want to cause harm to children,” Munoz told Repischak after providing the court with a number of character statements from supporters and a listing of places he’s volunteered, which included several groups that aim to help troubled youth.
Repischak noted that the teen inmate had a history of “resisting and belligerent” while in custody, including being charged for throwing or discharging bodily fluids at staff members.
When arguing for leniency for his client, Ahmad pointed out that Munoz has already faced serious repercussions. Munoz doesn’t work at a detention center anymore and “probably never will be working in that capacity ever again,” according to his attorney.
“It’s unfortunate that this situation happened,” Ahmad said. “He’s basically lost his career.”
Snapping under pressure
Judge Repischak acknowledged that Munoz, like many others who work in law enforcement, had his self-control tested as a result of his occupation. Still, Repischak condemned Munoz’s actions, especially considering this was the second time he’d been accused of using excessive force.
“I marvel at the restraint that police officers, sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers have on a daily basis. I’ve seen I don’t know how many squad videos, body cams and phone recordings of citizens about the verbal and sometimes physical abuse they take, and they don’t lash out,” Repischak said before declaring Munoz’s sentence. “They take a lot of crap, and they just have to eat it. And every once in a while, somebody snaps. I think in this particular instance, after dealing with this juvenile and after him spitting on you, you snapped and gave him some knee strikes.”
“Every once in a while, somebody snaps. I think in this particular instance, after dealing with this juvenile and after him spitting on you, you snapped and gave him some knee strikes.” Racine County Circuit Court Judge Robert Repischak