Attorney: Settlement in Putnam sexual assault case a 'nuisance-value'

By Lawrence Smith | Jul 23, 2009

WINFIELD - Because of its minimal value, the settlement in a lawsuit a Putnam County teenager filed against her cousin alleging sexual assault was not worth consideration of the court's time, says the cousin's attorney.

Court records show a settlement was reached on March 31 the case of Sultana T. Barnet v. Paul E. Casto. Barnet, now 20, alleged when she was then 17-years-old, Casto, in February 2006, sexually assaulted her in the garage of his home in Hometown.

In the complaint she filed over a year later, Barnet, who is Casto's neighbor and second cousin, alleged he caused her "humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish" when, after rejecting his demands, forcibly removed her clothes, and took sexually explicit pictures of her. After kissing her on various parts of her body, Barnet further alleged Casto threatened to harm her if she told anybody.

She did, however, and Casto was eventually indicted by the Putnam County grand jury in July 2006 on one count of sexual abuse by a parent or guardian. Because Casto later pled no contest to a lesser charge of third degree sexual assault in February 2007, Barnet was prohibited from using any of the information in the criminal case against him.

Joanna Tabit, who was hired by Casto's homeowner's insurer Liberty Mutual, declined to say specifically the amount of the settlement. However, she said that, compared to the allegations leveled, the suit amounted to a nuisance.

"It was a nuisance-value settlement," Tabit said.

Tabit did acknowledge that though scheduled, no depositions were taken. She referred additional questions about the settlement to Barnet's attorney, Paul M. Strobel.

When contacted, Strobel said he could not comment due to a confidentially agreement signed by the parties. After being told that Tabit made no reference to an agreement and her comments, Strobel said, "I'm not going to get into that," and declined further comment.

Following his conviction, records show Casto was sentenced in April 2007 to an indeterminate term of 1-5 years in prison. After serving 13 months at the St. Marys Correctional Center in Pleasants County, Casto was released, and placed on 10 years parole.

As required by law, Casto,65, registered as a sex offender with the West Virginia State Police upon his release. Records show he currently lives in Poca.

Putnam Circuit Court, Case No. 07-C-146

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