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Charges against Meriden city councilor stemming from immigration protest dropped

Charges against Meriden city councilor stemming from immigration protest dropped

MILFORD — A prosecutor dropped criminal charges against City Councilor Miguel Castro Friday in connection with Castro’s altercation with court marshals during an immigration protest outside Meriden Superior Court in December 2018.

Castro was exonerated of charges that he assaulted two judicial marshals and incited a riot during an emotional protest behind the courthouse on Dec. 13 as marshals transferred a New Haven man into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for deportation.

The charges were dropped as part of an agreement in which Castro stipulated that police had probable cause to arrest him, to release them of any liability.

The prosecutor in court Friday said video footage of the “3- to 5-second altercation” showed Castro did make contact with the marshals, which would not have looked good for him if the case went to trial. But he added he “has to recognize” the video did not match an account included in a police report in which one of the marshals went so far as to say Castro struck him so hard he spun 180 degrees.

In cases like Castro’s, in which the defendant has no criminal history, the prosecutor said he has one of three options: grant the defendant an accelerated rehabilitation program, lower the charge to a public disturbance infraction, or allow the defendant to earn an annulment through community service. The prosecutor cited Castro’s heavy involvement in many community organizations and “tireless work on behalf of constituents” as a city councilor as reason to drop the charges.

The dismissal marks the end of what Castro described as a trying year in which other elected officials called on him to resign in light of his pending felony charge. Castro, a Democrat, got on the council in 2012. He represents Area 1, which covers the inner city.

“It has been very difficult for me over the last year,” Castro said outside Milford Superior Court Friday, surrounded by dozens of supporters. “People were salivating at the possibility of asking me to resign or to be removed from office but I knew … there was no wrongdoing.”

Castro’s two counts of assault on public safety personnel are considered Class C felonies, meaning if he was convicted, he would have lost his electoral rights and, per state statute, couldn’t continue serving on the council until he regained his voting rights.

Castro accused the court marshals of “intentionally lying” in their statements given to State Police to “damage my name.” Though Castro had to stipulate probable cause as part of his annulment, he said after his court appearance that he doesn’t believe they had probable cause.

“When they indicated that I physically assaulted public safety officers, that never happened,” he said. “That I spun (one marshal) 180 degrees because I hit him so hard and then at the same time I elbowed the one within seconds is an effort to create a story that never happened, to intentionally damage my name.”

The prosecutor in court mentioned a social media post from August in which some of Castro’s supporters called for the marshals involved in the incident to be fired. The post has since been taken down as part of the agreement.

The prosecutor went onto the marshals, one of whom attended the court appearance but did not speak, saying “they do a good job of protecting us.”

On the night of the incident, Castro and others were protesting the deportation of a Mexican citizen who was convicted of driving under the influence the night of his deportation.

Castro was there to support the two teenage children of the man being deported. The man’s children ran to the rear yard of the courthouse where their father waited in a white van. Immigration advocates followed. As court marshals tried to clear the area, Castro, a vocal immigration advocate, was arrested for assaulting the marshals.

“Knowing that there are two teenagers who made it through the gate, I have to make it through the gates because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Castro told police in a jail cell interview the night of the incident.

In the months leading up to the dismissal, Castro and his attorney, Robert Burke, said they plan to release video they obtained of the incident that they say exonerates Castro. Following his court appearance Friday, Castro said he plans to release the video “in the coming days.”

Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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