Among the speakers at the Women’s March on Washington was feminist activist Donna Hylton. In 1985, Hylton was convicted in a New York court for her participation in the violent abduction, torture, and murder of Thomas Vigliarolo, a 60-year-old real estate broker. She is in demand on college campuses and elsewhere to speak about life in prison, and on her feminist perspective. Her website does not mention her conviction or the crimes ascribed to her. Four other were convicted as well.
Her website states that she is a “women's rights activist and criminal justice reform advocate,” who speaks about issues relating to incarcerated women and girls…” It noted that her life “took an unexpected and life-changing turn when as a child she was lured from Jamaica to the United States.” “Childhood abuse” and a “spiral of events” led to “her incarceration.”
According to a 1995 article in Psychology Today, Hylton was part of a gang hired by victim Vigliarolo’s former partner, Louis Miranda. The gang lured Vigliarolo to an apartment where, for as long as two weeks, they tortured him. One of Hylton’s accomplices, Rita Peters, would later explain why she shoved a yard-long metal rod up his rectum. Peters said, "He was a homo anyway." When asked how did she come to that conclusion, she said, "When I stuck the bar up his rectum he wiggled."
The article cited NYPD detective William Spurling who recounted Hylton’s chilling words about the kidnapping and murder of Vigliarolo. “Spurling himself interviewed Donna: ‘I couldn't believe this girl who was so intelligent and nice-looking could be so unemotional about what she was telling me she and her friends had done. They'd squeezed the victim's testicles with a pair of pliers, beat him, burned him. Actually, I thought the judge's sentence was lenient. Once a jailbird, always a jailbird.’” After Vigliarolo died, they stuffed his body in a trunk and left it to rot.
According to a 1985 petition for habeas corpus, “Petitioner and her co-defendants kidnapped Thomas Vigliarolo, a Long Island businessman, in order to obtain a ransom and that during the kidnapping, Vigliarolo died.” The petition, which was ultimately denied, indicated that it was on March 12, 1986, that a jury found Hylton guilty of second degree murder and two counts of first degree kidnapping. “Petitioner was sentenced to concurrent indeterminate prison terms of twenty-five years to life. People v. Hylton, 564 N.Y.S.2d 746 (1st Dep't 1991). “ She would spend 27 years in prison.
In a promo for a documentary for the CCTV network, which is controlled by the Chinese government, Hylton is heard to say, “Every person that represents an institution within this country is involved in the abuse that happened to me and so many other women. It doesn't matter black, brown, or white or whatever. A lot of the crimes that peopel are in prison for, especially women, are not crimes. They're situations."
When she was asked by CGTV, which is also an official Chinese media outlet, why she participated in the Women’s March on Washington, Hylton said, “First of all because I'm a woman. Because I'm a woman that spent 27 years in prison and we are the most marginalized of this demographic and we continue to be silenced, we continue to be negated, we continue to be vilified, we continue to be dehumanized…”
On her website, she is depicted in photographs alongside celebrities such as actor Steve Buscemi, feminist Gloria Steinem, and former Obama administration official Van Jones, who now appears regularly on CNN. In November, Hylton tweeted that Trump's election would endanger U.S. diplomatic ties to Europe.