Black Lives Matter protesters have a belligerent way of blocking public thoroughfares, and last year a 52-year-old New York City woman was charged with driving through a Manhattan protest and knocking down and hurting six people.
Kathleen Casillo of Queens won’t plead guilty in the case, however, and is risking jail time to prove she hit the gas out of fear for her daughter’s life while an angry mob was attacking her car, she said on Dec. 2.
Casillo said she had been Christmas shopping on Dec. 11, 2020 when she found herself driving her black BMW sedan through a protest against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A bystander’s video shows Casillo stopped at East 39th Street and Third Avenue with protesters around her car. Moments later she accelerates and speeds off, hitting several people and leaving them crumpled on the ground, to the accompaniment of screaming.
Casillo was in the car with her 29-year-old daughter, and told The Daily Mail that she feared fired-up demonstrators would break her passenger side window and drag her daughter out.
She was offered a deal of six days’ community service and a one-year driver’s license suspension, based on a plea of guilty to two misdemeanor charges of reckless assault and reckless endangerment.
“I never intended on hurting anyone,” she told the Daily Mail. “I just feared for my daughter’s life more than anybody.”
Now Casillo is refusing to plead guilty, however, which means she could instead face up to a year in jail if convicted.
“Not all accidents are criminal,” said her attorney, Oliver Storch, calling it an “aberration” that his client was arrested at all. He said authorities could have arrested the protesters instead, on charges such as criminal mischief.
“This was an angry mob that descended upon this mother and her daughter, and she panicked,” he said.
BLM protesters had stood on the car and appeared ready to smash its windows, he said, turning a “fun, pre-Christmas shopping moment into a nightmare.”
“We’re not making light of this,” he insisted, saying his client “is deeply, deeply concerned and feels very bad for anybody who was injured. … But there is no criminal liability here. There was nothing reckless about her conduct,” he insisted.
Casillo is due back in court on Jan. 28.