A Jackson woman accused of a hate crime says her actions inside a hotel lobby had nothing to do with the alleged victims’ religion.
In a preliminary hearing on Friday in Carroll County Superior Court, Priscilla Protasowicki told Judge Amy Ignatius, “I have no problem with their national origin, their religion. I have absolutely no issue with that.”
In April, state prosecutors allege Protasowicki, whose family operates the Covered Bridge Riverview Lodge, pushed two guests during an altercation in the lobby. According to the state’s complaint, Protasowicki said to the family “You’re a Muslim. You’re not supposed to be here,” during the dispute.
During Friday’s hearing, prosecutors from the N.H. Department of Justice’s newly created Civil Rights Unit presented evidence they say proves Protasowicki violated the state’s Civil Right Act, including statements given to the Jackson police by the victims, who were on vacation in New Hampshire.
The family is of Moroccan descent, and has lived in the United States for more than two decades. They travelled from Massachusetts to attend the hearing.
“Ms. Protasowicki’s conduct on this day has changed the way they view themselves in the United States. This is the first time they’ve been made to feel that they don’t belong,” said attorney Elizabeth Lahey, who oversees the Civil Rights Unit.
Protasowicki, who gave numerous interviews following the announcement of criminal and civil charges stemming from the incident, declined to speak with reporters following the hearing. She is currently representing herself in court, but requested the court put off a final hearing in the civil matter until she can obtain counsel.
Earlier this week, she pleaded not guilty in the related criminal matter, where she faces two counts of simple assault as well as an enhanced hate-crime penalty. She faces up to five years in prison on those charges, and up to $10,000 in fines for her alleged Civil Rights Act violation.
The incident took place on April 20, when the guests requested a refund after arriving to find the hotel appeared different than in photographs on the website. Protasowicki says she told the family the hotel has a strict policy against refunds, and instead offered a one night voucher.
After declining the voucher, the state alleges Protasowicki commented on the woman’s hijab. Protasowicki is accused of pushing the family out of the lobby and into the parking lot, where she allegedly told them that “Muslim people kill kids.”
Jackson police later arrested Protasowicki on two counts of simple assault. She later wrote an unsolicited email to the N.H. Attorney General’s office attempting to defend her actions.
“…I legally defended myself against a couple of Arabian Terrorists who came onto my property causing chaos. I guess this is what America has become of. I have to bow down to Arabs coming onto my property or else I may be arrested,” wrote Protasowicki.
A status hearing on her criminal charges is expected within the next 30 days. The judge on Friday didn’t immediately rule if a final evidentiary hearing in the civil matter will take place.