Fired Portland High School custodian pleads not guilty to assaulting student, seeks trial

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PORTLAND — The attorney representing a former Portland High School custodian accused of assaulting a student says he is confident his client will be exonerated.

Attorney Stephen Schwartz said he entered a plea of not guilty on Thursday, Jan. 7, in Cumberland County Superior Court on behalf of Joseph Cormier, a school custodian for nearly 18 years. Cormier will seek a jury trial, Schwartz said.

“The facts will show that (Cormier) did nothing wrong,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz suggested there was more to the November incident than was released by police and school officials.

“It is unfortunate that the School Department and police in their press releases saw fit not to reveal facts that could have given the community a better understanding of what happened,” he said.

One unreleased detail, Schwartz said, was that Cormier was a long-standing member of the school’s crisis response team, and was called to the office to help break up the altercation.

Schwartz said Cormier, a Saco resident, welcomes an in-depth investigation into the incident, but so far that has not happened.

“Any time there is an allegation of excessive force in a school, we understand that there has to be an investigation,” Schwartz said. “We welcome a full and fair investigation. We don’t think that occurred in this case.”

According to police, Cormier has two sons who attend the high school. His younger son had apparently been the subject of teasing by a group of girls and his older son was sticking up for his younger brother.

The older brother reportedly got into an argument with another student, who was defending the girls. Police said the school resource officer noticed the custodian’s son clenching his fist and attempted to calm him down.

That’s when the custodian, who was subsequently fired, allegedly grabbed the other student by the throat with one hand and pinned him against lockers with his opposite forearm.

The victim’s parents originally declined to file charges, but later changed their minds.

A trial date has not been set.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]