A former substitute teacher in Roselle Park has had his teaching credentials suspended for a year after punching a utility worker who cut off the power to his building.

Mahmoud Okal pleaded guilty to simple assault in 2015 in Superior Court of Monmouth County after having been charged with robbery and aggravated assault against a utility company employee.

In New Jersey, people who commit simple assault on utility workers are charged with the more serious offense of aggravated assault.

Under his plea deal, however, Okal was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to take anger management classes.

As a result of his conviction, the state agency that licenses teachers recently voted to suspend Okal's substitute teaching certificate.

Officials said Okal punched the Jersey Central Power & Light worker through the driver's side window of the worker's vehicle and attempted to grab his keys.

Okal told the State Board of Examiners that he acted inappropriately, but did so because the JCP&L technician was being aggressive and appeared to try to run over a coworker at the business where Okal was employed.

Okal said the technician had cut the power off to the wrong building but had refused to acknowledge his mistake or to talk to the customer service representative who was on the phone with Okal's coworker.

Okal said that when he saw the technician attempt to drive over his coworker and push him onto the highway, he called 911 and ran to the truck to try to turn off the engine.

He said it was "not an attempt to steal the truck, but rather to prevent injury to a fellow employee," the State Board of Examiners noted in their order of suspension last month.

The board said that being a teacher "requires a degree of self-restraint and controlled behavior" and that Okal's incident with the JCP&L worker "indicates a serious lapse in judgement." Even one bad incident, they noted, could be enough to jeopardize a teacher's job.

Okal told the board that he has since been promoted to general manager at his other job outside of public education.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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