Judge denies motion to dismiss inmate sexual assault case against senior custody deputy

Dave Minsky, Santa Maria Times, Calif.
·2 min read

May 4—A motion to dismiss sexual assault charges against a Santa Barbara County sheriff's senior custody deputy was denied by a judge last month after his attorney argued there's no evidence against his client other than accusations.

Superior Court Judge Michael Carrozzo on April 23 denied a motion to dismiss the case against Gabriel Ray Castro, 48, of Ventura who is charged with one count of sexual penetration by force of a female inmate and one count of sexual activity in a detention facility between May 28, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2017, according to records.

Castro pleaded not guilty on March 6, 2020, and his charges were upheld at a Feb. 17, 2021, preliminary hearing.

Michael Schwartz, Castro's attorney filed the motion to dismiss on April, claiming that no surveillance video, DNA evidence or corroborating witnesses were presented against Castro at the preliminary hearing. Schwartz did not return an email seeking comment.

"During [Jane Doe's] prior interview during the administrative investigation into defendant's conduct, she did not state that defendant had touched her," according to Schwartz's motion. "There must be something more than the bald accusations of an alleged victim."

Castro was arrested on Feb. 21, 2020, along with co-worker Salvador Vargas Jr., a 35-year-old discharge planner, after the sheriff's criminal and internal affairs officials looked into accusations of sexual abuse starting in August 2018, according to court records.

Vargas is charged with forcible oral copulation and sexual activity in a detention facility in a separate case. He pleaded not guilty on March 19.

Sgt. Travis Henderson, a sheriff's criminal investigator who interviewed Castro's Jane Doe accuser in December 2018, described her demeanor as "suspicious" and "standoffish" at first but that she correctly guessed he was there to talk about Castro, who Doe accused of reaching through the food tray slot to fondle her while housed in an isolation cell.

Schwartz, however, said the charges are baseless and pointed to no physical evidence, except for records showing Castro was assigned to the jail when Doe was incarcerated, according to his motion.

"Things like the #MeToo movement were important for a lot of reasons, because there are women who are actually assaulted or actually, you know, taken advantage of, and those predators and perpetrators have to be found out and brought [to justice]," Schwartz said at the preliminary hearing.

In her April 22 reply to the motion, Deputy District Attorney Sarah Barkley said there was sufficient evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.

Castro is scheduled to reappear for a readiness and settlement conference at 8:30 a.m. May 28 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.