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Wed, June 19

Jury: Partial verdict in rape case

PRESCOTT – Jurors returned guilty verdicts – for lesser-included offenses – on two of the charges against 35-year-old Richard Castaneda of Prescott, but failed to reach verdicts on two counts of sexual assault, leading Judge William Kiger to declare the proceedings a partial mistrial.

The six men and six women on the jury deliberated for about eight hours in two sessions that began last Wednesday and concluded Monday afternoon, finally acknowledging to the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked as to whether Castaneda raped a 23-year-old man in January.

Prosecutor John Erickson had asked the jury to find Castaneda guilty of aggravated assault, kidnapping and two counts of sexual assault. The panel returned verdicts of misdemeanor assault and unlawful imprisonment, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Castaneda, who has no prior criminal record, is eligible for probation consideration when Judge Kiger sentences him Oct. 5. He was acquitted as a co-defendant in a prominent Prescott homicide case in the late 1980s.

Family members of the victim were visibly upset with the trial's mixed results. Erickson, after meeting with the relatives, said he is unsure if he will recommend re-trying the rape charges.

"I have to see if I can talk to some of the jurors," Erickson said, "and find out why they couldn't come to a decision on the sexual assaults, if it's something that would be insurmountable in another trial."

Statutes allow the state 60 days to make that decision. Because of the state's option and his concern for seating an impartial jury in the future, Kiger ordered jurors not to speak to anyone except Erickson and defense attorney Ken Ray about the case or about their deliberations.

Erickson said he would contact jurors by phone and assess their take of the state's evidence, which included testimony from Prescott police officers who said they found Castaneda and the badly-beaten victim in the rear of a sport utility vehicle, apparently engaging in sex that the victim said was not consensual.

Castaneda said during the trial that he became enraged when the victim tried to initiate sex with him, and so administered a beating. He denied forcing the victim into a sexual act.

The victim told the court that Castaneda beat him with a rock and stabbed him with darts before raping him.

Castaneda has been in the Yavapai County Jail for seven months since his arrest and Ray, noting that his client has already served more time than would be required on the assault conviction and more than the minimum term for unlawful imprisonment, asked the judge to release him to the custody of family members. Kiger replied that he was uncomfortable with the thought of unsecured release and compromised by reducing Castaneda's bail amount from $50,000 to $15,000.


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