A woman who “sped” her car directly into a group of activists during a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City more than two years ago was given a lenient sentence on Monday despite the violent and suspected racial nature of her offense.
Kathleen Casillo, who is shown on video driving a black BMW into the group of protesters in Manhattan on Dec. 11, 2020, was seemingly let off the hook with a punishment of just five hours of community service, thanks to a plea deal that allowed her to avoid any real responsibility for her actions on that fateful day.
The New York Post reported that Casillo, 53, was previously facing up to seven years in prison after having been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment for the collision that hospitalized six people. Conspicuously missing from her charges was attempted murder.
Instead, Casillo’s generous plea deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will allow her to have the misdemeanor she was convicted of downgraded to disorderly conduct if she avoids any other legal problems while serving her five-hour sentence of unspecified community service.
Casillo was notably released on her own recognizance hours after she collided with the protesters and was given a court date instead of being immediately jailed and arraigned.
Casillo has said she panicked behind the wheel because of the “aggressive” protesters.
Graphic video footage from the incident follows below and should be viewed with discretion.
Casillo’s treatment stood in stark contrast to that of Black and brown people suspected of less severe crimes, according to one of the people struck by her vehicle during the protest.
“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,” Roque Rodriguez told reporters ahead of Casillo’s first court date in 2021. “She hit me flush from behind and set my body flying and flipping through the air and she kept driving.”
Rodriguez added: “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.”
The protest was taking place in the Murray Hill neighborhood on the east side of Manhattan a little after 4 p.m. when the car “sped” and came “plowing through,” one protester who witnessed the collision said in an emotional interview. She said two “white women” were in a navy blue BMW that hit “six of our nonviolent protesters.”
The protesters were demonstrating to show support for a group of ICE detainees staging a hunger strike in nearby New Jersey.
The witness said that police were able to respond quickly because they were already positioned in front of, on each side and behind the protesters. Casillo waited on the scene before she was taken into custody.
If Casillo violates any of the terms of her plea deal, she could be jailed for up to a year.
Casillo previously refused to plead guilty on multiple occasions. The strategy proved successful, with the district attorney’s office ultimately slapping her on the wrist.
The lenient legal treatment Casillo and her violent actions received pales in comparison to that of Kalief Browder, a Black teenager arrested and in New York City in 2010 charged with stealing a backpack who was remanded to the notorious Rikers Island jail complex for years because his family couldn’t afford to pay the $3,000 bail.
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