SPARTA, N.J. (AP) — A former instructor at a northern New Jersey school for people with developmental disabilities has been accused of punching an autistic woman in the stomach.

Sparta police told the Star-Ledger of Newark and The New Jersey Herald of Newton the incident may have been racially motivated. They say 24-year-old Paul Rinaldi of Vernon hit the 35-year-old black woman last month after making “an extremely disturbing racial slur” directed at her.

Rinaldi was fired from his job shortly after the Sept. 22 incident at Willowglen Academy. The victim was not seriously injured.

Rinaldi, who had worked at the school for about three years, was charged with bias intimidation and endangering the welfare of an incompetent person.

A telephone message left for Rinaldi Wednesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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