A Connecticut judge has awarded more than $295,000 to a Black woman who was spit on by a white woman during a protest at the state Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Judge Matthew Budzik concluded that Yuliya Gilshteyn tried to intimidate Keren Prescott “based on racial bigotry or bias,” when she spat on her following a verbal confrontation during dueling rallies that day. Most of the damages awarded were for emotional distress.
“I’m in shock but I am also relieved that the judge recognizes racism is a public health crisis,” Prescott said. “To me, that is what this judgment says and this is reparations for what she did to me.”
Gilshteyn was at the state Capitol rallying calling for medical freedom and was unmasked. Prescott, who has Multiple Sclerosis and is immunocompromised, was there masked to espouse the views of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gilshteyn, who is Jewish and originally from Lithuania, had her baby strapped to her chest during the protest. She was arrested that day and received accelerated rehab, a prison diversionary program, in a criminal case related to the incident, but Budzik made his decision following a hearing in civil court.
During the hearing last October Gilshteyn argued she was concerned that Prescott’s shouts of “Black Lives Matter” were drowning out the parents protesting the end to medical exemptions for childhood vaccines. Budzik said he credited her testimony to that point.
When she first confronted Prescott she asked about “black on black crime” and told her that “all lives matter,” which Professor Charles Gallagher testified can be seen as a “racist trope indicating individuals who use those phrases may hold racist attitudes.”
Gilshteyn testified that she was concerned about her baby’s hearing since Prescott was using a megaphone to shout them, but the court found it was less about the baby and more about the concern her views were not getting across to lawmakers.
“Ms. Gilshteyn testifies that she was spitting at Ms. Prescott’s megaphone, not at Ms. Prescott’s person. The court does not credit Ms. Gilshteyn’s testimony on this point. The court concludes, as a factual matter, that Ms. Gilshteyn intended to spit at and on Ms. Prescott,” Budzik wrote.
Prescott was struck on her mask, glasses, and megaphone with the spit and testified that she experienced severe emotional distress as a result.
“Ms. Prescott testifies that she experienced severe emotional distress over increased concerns she may contract COVID-19, emotional distress over the concerns that COVID-19 might worsen her MS, humiliation over being spat upon in public, and that the bodily violation of being spat upon reawakened the trauma of her past sexual assault. The court credits Ms. Prescott’s testimony,” Budzik wrote in his decision.
The whole incident which was captured on video lasted one minute.
Prescott said she feels vindicated by the decision.
“What I’ve been saying for 2 years is that not only did she attack me unprovoked but it was a hate crime. That It was racism,” she said.
Prescott was represented in the matter by Attorney Ken Krayeske, who was awarded more than $53,000 in attorney’s fees as part of the judgment.
“To eradicate racism, we must make it cost prohibitive,” Krayeske said. “If the only thing America seems to value is money, then we Must create a society where racism is too expensive to engage in.”
It’s unknown if Gilshteyn, who is represented by Attorney Kevin Smith of Pattis & Smith, will appeal the ruling.
In court documents Smith argued that there is no basis for intentional infliction of emotional distress. “Simply put, it is not enough for Prescott to hold an idiosyncratic worldview through the lens of which Gilshetyn’s attendance at and participation in a political protest and her otherwise peaceful conduct there would give rise to reasonable apprehension or fear of harmful or offensive contact,” he wrote.