WINFIELD – After nearly a six-month delay, the defendant in a Putnam County sexual abuse civil case has responded to the allegations leveled against him by his alleged victim.
On May 8, Paul E. Casto, formerly of Hometown, filed his reply to the lawsuit filed against him by his neighbor and second cousin, Sultana T. Barnet. According to her suit, which was filed over a year ago on May 24, 2007, Barnet alleged Casto inflicted emotional distress on her through various acts of outrageous conduct that took place in his garage in February 2006.
"Plaintiff was photographed, assaulted and suffered damages and losses including, but not limited to pain and suffering, humiliation and emotional anguish and bills," Barnet's suit alleged.
In his reply, filed with the assistance of Joanna Tabit, with the Charleston law firm of Steptoe and Johnson, admitted to taking photographs of Barnet, who was 17 at the time. However, he denies causing her "humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish and medical bills."
"This Defendant," Tabit wrote, "denies all allegations contended in the Plaintiff's complaint that allege or imply any responsibility, failure to meet a responsibility, duty or violation of duty with respect to him or that allege or imply that he violated any applicable statutes, rules, regulations or standards whatsoever with respect to this matter."
According to court records, Casto was served with Barnet's suit on Nov. 29 via his guardian ad litem, Matthew Victor. The appointment of Victor to act as Casto's guardian for the purpose of serving process was made at the request of Barnet's attorney Paul M. Strobel, with the Charleston law firm of Strobel and Johnson, due to Casto's incarceration on a related criminal charge.
According to court records, Casto was arrested and charged on Feb. 10, 2006, with sexual assault in the first degree, use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct and employment or use of minors to assist in sexually explicit conduct. In the complaint filed against him by State Police in Putnam Magistrate Court, Casto led Barnet into the garage of his home, locked the doors and ordered her to remove parts of her clothing.
When she failed to comply with his demands, Casto forcibly removed Barnet's clothing, and took sexually explicit pictures of her. After kissing Barnet on various parts of her body, Casto threatened to harm her if she told anybody.
Five months after his arrest and release on bond, court records show, Casto was indicted by the Putnam grand jury on one count of sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, and one count of first degree sexual abuse. Though he initially pled not guilty to the charges, Casto later pled no contest to third degree sexual abuse in exchange for the state dismissing the sexual abuse by a parent or guardian charge.
On April 26, Putnam Circuit Judge Ed Eagloski sentenced Casto to an indeterminate term of 1-5 years in prison. When Casto failed to reply to his client's suit, Strobel filed a motion for default judgment with Eagloski on Jan. 23.
She became involved with the case, Tabit said, at the request of Casto's homeowner's insurer.
"I was retained by the homeowner's insurance carrier and spoke with counsel [Strobel] who agreed to give me an extension of time to file a reply," Tabit said.
Because Casto pled no contest to the criminal charges, any allegations against him will have to be proven anew, Tabit said.
According to the West Virginia Department of Corrections, Casto will be returning to Hometown soon. Though still incarcerated at the St. Marys Correctional Center in Pleasants County, Casto was granted parole on April 29.
He is awaiting approval of a home plan before he is released. Upon his release, Casto will be required to register as a sex offender with the State Police.
In a related matter, it remains unclear if Casto will be called to testify in the sexual abuse civil case Hernshaw residents James and Debbie Green have against Chesapeake Apostolic Church, the Upper Kanawha Valley Christian School and Timothy C. Edmonds. Though the Green's attorney, Henry Wood III told The West Virginia Record that a settlement was reached following an April 29 meditation conference, court records show no final order entered in the case.
Edmond's attorney, George Joseph, with the Charleston law firm of Bailey and Wyant, was not available for comment. Also, CAC's and UKVCS' attorney, Cheryl Ledbetter, with the Charleston law firm of Jackson Kelly, said she was not at liberty to comment on the case, including the fact whether it has in fact been settled.
"I can't make any comment regarding any aspect of the case," Ledbetter said.
Putnam Circuit Court Case No. 07-C-146