MERIDEN — City Councilor Miguel Castro faces charges that he assaulted two judicial marshals during a protest at the courthouse Thursday.
Castro, 49, of 51 Bradley Ave., was charged with two counts of assault on public safety personnel and one count of first-degree riot.
State police said they responded to Meriden Superior Court, 54 W. Main St., about 5 p.m. Thursday after receiving a report that judicial marshals were assaulted.
Troopers investigated and determined Castro assaulted two marshals while they were attempting to move a crowd of about 15 to 20 people protesting at the courthouse. State police said the marshals were trying to disperse the crowd, which was in a secured parking area.
Unidad Latina en Acción posted on its Facebook page that it was protesting outside the courthouse for a man that was being taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The group shared a video of a crowd of people standing and showing support for the person.
Castro issued a brief written statement Friday afternoon.
“Yesterday, while attempting to provide support to an immigrant family abruptly facing family separation, the situation unfairly and rapidly escalated,” he said, calling the charges against him “unjust and unwarranted.”
“I am being accused of inciting a riot and assaulting a public safety officer. Instead, what I was doing was asserting my First Amendment rights and assisting a family in crisis,” Castro said.
Castro, a Democrat, was first elected to the council in 2012 and was re-elected to his current four-year term in 2017.
He represents Area 1, which covers the inner city.
Council Majority Leader David Lowell called the charges against Castro “extremely, extremely concerning” in an interview Friday.
“The allegations reflect a conduct that I believe is unbecoming for anybody, (especially) an elected official,” he said.
Lowell said it would be “premature” to make decisions about Castro’s future before the legal process is completed.
“Any convictions will be weighed very seriously,” Lowell said. “...When final decisions are made, we will look at what actions might be necessary in terms of his position, within our caucus and on the council, but he is entitled to his day in court to explain and defend his actions.”
Castro’s two counts of assault on public safety personnel are considered Class C felonies. If he is convicted on those charges, he would lose his electoral rights.
“If an elected official were to lose his or her electoral rights as a consequence of a felony conviction, that official cannot hold public office or run for office,” according to Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State. “But once their rights are restored, they would be free to run for office again.”
Members of Castro’s own party, including Lowell and Democratic Town Chairwoman Millie Torres-Ferguson, called for Castro to resign in April after learning Castro asked the city’s video production contractor to edit a video recording of a council subcommittee meeting to remove what Castro considered an embarrassing exchange with the committee chairman.
Castro chose not to resign at the time, but admitted he “could have handled matters differently.”
Torres-Ferguson declined to comment on Thursday’s arrest until she learns more about the situation.
Council Minority Leader Dan Brunet said Castro should consider resigning.
“In the past, he’s been called to resign and resisted it, but there’s only so much the Democratic Party should take,” Brunet said.
Michael Quinn, the city’s Corporation Counsel, said there is no language in the City Charter that would provide a mechanism to remove an elected official.
Brunet believes Castro’s arrest, which was reported by news outlets around Connecticut Friday, damages Meriden’s reputation.
“I think it does have an effect on the perception of the city and the City Council as a whole, and I’m not happy at all about that,” Brunet said.
City Manager Tim Coon said he was aware of the incident and will comment further “as appropriate.”
“Like all Americans, Mr. Castro is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” he said.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati echoed Coon’s comments Friday and said he is in the preliminary stages of getting more information about the incident.
“Obviously Councilor Castro has participated in these types of events in the past,” Scarpati said. “Knowing he has participated in different peaceful protests isn’t new to us. He’s done this previously, and it’s his right to participate in those types of peaceful protests.
“We have to learn more about last night’s incident and what actually occurred,” Scarpati added, “and then determine what the next steps will be.”
Scarpati said he saw a video of the incident and described the allegations as “concerning.” He said the video shows court officers directing a crowd of people to back out of the sally port area of the courthouse, and an individual wearing a dark-colored jacket and black hat charging at court officers. The person is then seen backing away and appears to try to run before being brought down by court officials and taken into custody.
Scarpati noted the video is chaotic and it was dark outside at the time of the incident.
Castro was released on $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Meriden Superior Court on Dec. 27.