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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Senior National Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia
A New York City mother of three who slammed her BMW into Black Lives Matter protesters in New York received just five hours of community service for her crime.
Kathleen Casillo, 53, walked free this week after striking a sweetheart plea deal.
She faced up to seven years in jail if she was found guilty of the December 2020 crime that injured six peaceful protesters.
The deal allows Casillo’s record to show that she’s guilty of the misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment.
If she completes the light community service and stays out of trouble for six months, officials and her lawyer said, her record will only show a disorderly conduct charge.
Casillo had asserted that she accidentally hit her gas pedal because the protesters were behaving aggressively, but video surveillance appeared to refute these claims.
Victims, loved ones, and social media users lashed out following the light sentence.
“You [messed] up lives. You’re a criminal,” one woman screamed at Casillo as she entered an elevator at Manhattan Supreme Court.
“They didn’t do anything,” the unidentified woman continued. “My husband’s back was turned when you hit him and sent him flying into the air. His back was turned. How is that aggressive?”
While driving her BMW along 39th Street and Third Avenue with her 29-year-old daughter in the passenger seat on Dec. 11, 2020, Casillo hit the gas pedal and plowed into six protesters.
A video recording of the incident showed several victims hit so hard that they were hurled across the street.
Fortunately, no deaths occurred.
Prosecutors initially charged Casillo with reckless endangerment and assault.
The Daily Mail reported that prosecutors ultimately agreed to the plea deal after several previous offers were turned down because Castillo had no criminal record.
They claimed she didn’t intend to harm any of the protestors.
OHSP reminds drivers, passengers to buckle up every trip, every time
To remind everyone about the importance of buckling up, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) has announced a “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign that will run from May 15 to June 4.
Officers from police departments, sheriff’s offices and the Michigan State Police will be conducting seat belt enforcement across the state during the three-week period, which includes Memorial Day weekend.
In Michigan, 254 people who were killed in traffic crashes during 2021 were not wearing a seat belt, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. That is an increase of 11.4 percent over 2020, when there were 228 fatalities.
“Wearing a seat belt is the most effective thing you can do to reduce injuries and save lives—and buckling up should be an automatic habit for drivers and passengers alike,” said Katie Bower, OHSP director. “It’s not just the safe thing to do—it’s the law.”
During the 2021 Memorial Day weekend, there were 14 fatal crashes on Michigan roadways that resulted in 14 fatalities. From 2019 to 2022, the seat belt usage rate in Michigan fell from 94.4 percent to 92.9 percent. There are nearly 30 Michigan counties that fall below the state usage rate. See the OHSP website for more details. The national seat belt usage rate in 2021 was 90.4 percent.
“As the busy summer travel season gets underway, we want to remind drivers and passengers to stay safe and wear a seat belt, every trip, every time,” Bower added.
Men make up the majority of those killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020, 67 percent of the 23,824 passenger-vehicle occupants who were killed were men. Men use seat belts at a lower rate than women do—55 percent of men killed in crashes were unrestrained, compared to 43 percent of women killed in crashes.
In addition, young adults are at a higher risk of being killed because of riding unrestrained. Sixty percent of young adults aged 18 to 34 who were killed in 2020 while riding in passenger vehicles were not buckled up—one of the highest percentages for all age groups.
NHTSA estimates that buckling up in the front seat can reduce the risk of serious injury or death in a crash by 45 percent.
Michigan law requires drivers, front-seat passengers, and passengers 15 and younger in any seating position to be buckled up. The fine and associated costs for not wearing a seat belt is $65. Children must be in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4' 9" tall. Children under 4 years old must be in the back seat.
The OHSP coordinates the “Click It or Ticket” effort, which is supported by federal traffic safety funds.