JACKSON — A Jackson innkeeper is now asking a judge to annul a resolution agreement she came to with the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office regarding alleged violations of the state Civil Rights Act. Her attorney claims the AG's news release about the agreement was misleading.
The agreement was announced in a news release by the state Attorney General's Office on July 26. The release outlined a proposed final order, which Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius approved July 25.
According to the release, the agreement resolved allegations that in April 2018, Priscilla Protasowicki, 33, used force in an attempt to remove two guests from the Covered Bridge Riverview Lodge in Jackson based on her belief they should not have been there because of their religion and perceived national origin.
But on Aug. 5, Protasowicki's attorney, Allen Lucas of Lucas Law in Wolfeboro, filed a motion to vacate or stay the proposed final order.
Protasowicki provided the motion to the Sun. It said: "The Defendant settled her case with the State in an attempt to buy peace and move on from all the negativity that this case has bought upon her, family, and the family business, knowing that she denies the allegations made against her," said the motion.
"However, rather than file a simple statement that encompassed the nature of the settlement reached, the Plaintiff issued a Release that contained incomplete or misleading facts, which would cause any reasonable person to believe that the Defendant accepted or admitted to liability, which is not the case, and which contradicts the nature of the agreement reached by the parties.
"Therefore, the Defendant believes that the Plaintiff's conduct is tantamount to bad faith and that this Court should vacate or stay the Proposed Order."
Lucas wrote that the issue of liability was discussed "at length" during a mediation session that took place from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on July 24.
According to the agreement announced last month, Protasowicki is permanently prevented from having further contact with the two victims and their families, and from engaging in or threatening physical force or violence, damage to property or trespass on property against any person motivated by race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
A violation of a permanent injunction issued under RSA 354-B constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.
Protasowicki also must pay a monetary penalty of $10,000, $7,500 of which will be suspended for one year on condition of compliance with the permanent injunction. Protasowicki also will have to pay restitution to the two victims.
Named as victims were Mohamed Ghallami and Chahrazade Mounaji of Massachusetts, who booked a room at the lodge with their 8-year-old daughter. They are of Moroccan heritage but have lived in the U.S. for decades.
According to court documents, the family had been staying in the area, but Ghallami decided to extend the vacation by booking a night at the lodge. He had planned to return to Massachusetts for work. But because he booked the room, he was told he had to be present at check-in.
The couple went to the lodge but ended up being dissatisfied with the room and asked for a refund.
Protasowicki’s mother offered a voucher, which the couple declined. That’s when they say Protasowicki began talking about Mounaji’s hijab (head scarf) and saying the couple shouldn’t be there. They said Protasowicki began pushing them out the door while stating things like Muslims don’t belong in this country and that Muslims kill children.
In court last year, Protasowicki said that if she were bigoted she wouldn’t have booked the room to the family in the first place.
Lucas, in his new motion, said the release would make it sound to a reasonable reader that Protasowicki denied the couple based on discrimination when in fact the "incidents arose after Mr. Ghallami and Ms. Mounaji requested their reservations be canceled, after arriving at the lodge.
"The Plaintiff purposefully omitted critical factual information, in order to advance its narrative that the Defendant violated the New Hampshire Civil Rights Act," said Lucas.
Lucas also said that under the agreement, the $10,000 was not supposed to be described as a penalty and that Protasowicki would not admit liability.
According to Lucas, the $10,000 and payments to the couple were agreed to in order to "buy peace" and not to admit guilt. The proposed order also referred to the couple by their names and not as victims, as in the release, in order to prevent the appearance of Protasowicki admitting liability.
"Because of the actions of the Plaintiff, the Defendant has had her reputation tarnished to the point that it will be nearly impossible to repair," said Lucas.
The Attorney General's office had 10 days to respond.
“We have not been served with the motion to vacate or stay the final order but have reviewed a copy of motion," said Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards. "We disagree with the assertions in the motion and will be filing an appropriate response.”
Protasowicki also had a criminal case stemming from the same incident in which the charges were reduced, In June, she pleaded guilty in Carroll County Superior Court to two counts of Class A misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Prior to taking the plea deal in the criminal case, Protasowicki had been charged with two counts of assault “with hate crime enhancement.”
Going along with the terms of a plea deal, Judge Ignatius imposed a one-year jail sentence and a $620 fine, with both suspended for a year on conditions of good behavior, and also ordered Protasowicki to undergo cultural bias and sensitivity training with proof delivered to the state within six months.
The original indictments from July of last year said Protasowicki mistreated the family because of their faith and national origin, but in June, those indictments were replaced with the two charges disorderly conduct, which said that Protasowicki on April 20, 2018, “knowingly engaged in tumultuous behavior in a public place directed at M.G. And C.M.”