A white woman who plowed into protesters with her vehicle last year in New York City, injuring nine demonstrators, declined a plea deal on Wednesday (Dec. 1) and now faces jail time.
Kathleen Casillo of Howard Beach, Queens told The Daily Mail that she feared for her daughter’s life when demonstrators at a December 2020 protest attacked her car, so she decided to hit the gas pedal.
Instead of accepting a deal for community service and a license suspension, Casillo could get up to seven years in prison if found guilty of third-degree reckless assault.
Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the Manhattan Criminal Court to demand justice, AM New York reported. About 100 demonstrators displayed photographs and showed video footage of the devastation from the incident.
According to the New York Post, Casillo, 53, was driving her black BMW sedan with her then 29-year-old daughter in the passenger seat on Dec. 11. They encountered a Black Lives Matter protest in Manhattan against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detentions in Midtown. A video shows Casillo with protesters in front of her car before she accelerates the vehicle.
Casillo told the Daily Mail that protesters were ready to break her passenger side window and drag her daughter out of it.
“I feel sick. I never intended on hurting anyone. I just feared for my daughter's life more than anybody. I thought they were going to pull her out of the car,” Casillo said defending her actions.
“They’re just making the Black community look like they’re thugs,” she continued. “One of my closest friends is a woman of color, [I’ve known] from when I was 19-years-old, so it’s not a Black, white thing. I don’t even know the color of the people that I hit. It was all mixed.”
Outside the courthouse, survivors told their side of the story, some calling Casillo’s attitude white privilege.
“Last year on Dec. 11, Kathleen Casillo drove her car at top speed through a crowd of human beings. I was one of those human beings—I never saw her coming. She hit me flush from behind and set my body flying and flipping through the air and she kept driving,” Roque Rodriguez said, according to AM New York.
“It’s white supremacy that allowed Kathleen to believe she had the right to end the lives of anyone that got in her way, especially BLM protesters,” he continued.
Tabitha Howell, another injured person, talked about the physical pain she experienced.
“Kathleen Castillo’s car left me with five bulging discs in my back and a traumatic brain injury,” AM New York quoted Howell. “It’s one thing to face physical recovery. It’s another to try to process what happened mentally and emotionally.”
AM New York said the protesters were also angry with the prosecutor. They believe Casillo was given a slap on the wrist.
Casillo is due back in court on Jan. 28.