After suffering several injuries from a car accident allegedly caused by a drunk driver, 48-year-old Claire Castillo of Union City watched as the woman who was accused of the crime walked away from a Hoboken courtroom earlier this month.
The case was dismissed due to the absence of one of the arresting police officers.
Since then, Castillo’s family has been furious at what they said was a case of an accused drunk driver getting off easy.
A Kearny woman was identified as the driver of the other vehicle on the night of the crash, according to a police report which stated that the woman’s blood alcohol content at the time of the accident was .14, six points above the legal limit.
On Wednesday Nov. 15, Hoboken Municipal Court Judge Kimberly Glatt dismissed the case after one of the three police officers who were subpoenaed for the trial did not arrive due to an illness, and the case had reached its 60th day before the court.
According to Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, 60 days is significant because it is the goal set by the Administration of the Office of the Courts to be the maximum amount of time allowed for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) case to be heard by a municipal court.
DeFazio went on to say that it is not uncommon, however, for DWI cases to be heard beyond the 60-day period and that this one in particular should have been heard considering the accident.
“It’s an extraordinary remark to dismiss a DWI charge under these circumstances when there was an accident,” DeFazio said. “The case did not have to be dismissed because of a passage of 60 days. It’s a goal, not a mandate.”
If Glatt decides not to reopen the case, DeFazio will make an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court where he hopes the trial will be reinstated in the Hoboken Municipal Court.
The court date had been originally postponed from Nov.1 till Nov. 15 because of another Hoboken Police Officer’s failure to attend due to a scheduled vacation, of which he had made the court aware prior to the trial.
Castillo said that she and her 19-year-old daughter, who was also in the car at the time of the accident, are both undergoing three days of physical therapy per week as a result of injuries caused by the crash.
Not taking this lying down
In response to the judge’s decision, Municipal Prosecutor Michael Mongiello submitted a written report on Nov. 20 to the court, requesting that Glatt reopen the case.
“I want the charges reinstated, and I’m making my best effort to get the case back in to court,” said Mongiello. Although the prosecutor disagreed with the way in which this case was handled, he did admit that “It’s really difficult to dispose of a contested DWI in 60 days.”
On Tuesday Nov. 28, Glatt said that she was aware of the motion made by Mongiello and could not comment because the case was still pending.
For the Castillos, who have since hired attorney Andrew Valez to represent them in civil court, the entire ordeal has been disheartening.
“The pain we’re going through,” Carlos Castillo said. “My wife is in pain all day and [the Kearny woman] just walks away. Something is wrong. You don’t just let a[n alleged] drunk driver walk away with nothing at all. What happened to us has affected our whole lives.”
Claire has recently been found to have a herniated disc in her neck from an MRI. Although she could not confirm any further damage, Claire also claims to have a great deal of pain in her knees and lower back. Her daughter suffers from a constant pain across her back and shoulders, and according to Claire, might have torn ligaments in her knees.
“There’s no reason why someone like that should be able to get behind the wheel again without anything on her record,” said Claire. “Right now it’s like saying she’s innocent, like it never happened. There’s something wrong with that.”
The Kearny woman and her attorney, Kevin Leckerman, could not be reached for comment.
Glass in their mouths
The incident occurred on Sept. 1 in the area of 700 Sinatra Drive in Hoboken at approximately 10:42 p.m. according to the police report. After having recently picked her daughter up from the PATH station, the victim says she was driving home along Hoboken’s waterfront when a car traveling at an “extremely fast speed” crossed over the double lines and headed in her direction as she rounded a turn on the Drive.
Before she was able to swerve out of the way, the two cars collided, causing Claire’s Nissan Xterra to lose its drive shaft and back axel, spinning 360 degrees and eventually crashing into parked cars in the area.
According to Claire, she and her daughter were covered in shattered glass which entered their eyes and mouths as well as causing cuts to their faces and hands.
The two were taken to St. Mary Hospital, where they were treated and released that night.
It is not clear what damage was done to the other vehicle or driver. Claire claims there was a passenger in the other car, but there was no record of the passenger on the police report and no appearance or mention made of the individual in court.
Michael Mullins can be reached at email@example.com.
Prosecutor DeFazio disagreed with Glatt’s handling of the case.