January 15, 2008 in City

Castagna pleads innocent to six felonies

Thomas Clouse Staff writer
 

The attorney for a 27-year-old waiter and part-time porn model called Spokane County’s case “laughable” as his client pleaded not guilty Monday to a list of charges that followed a sexual encounter last October that ended the career of a Washington state representative.

Cody Michael Castagna answered “innocent” as each of the six felonies levied against him were read by Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque.

“I can’t believe I’m facing six felonies and he’s not facing anything,” he said after the hearing.

Castagna was referring to 48-year-old Richard Curtis, the former state representative from La Center. The Republican politician was not present for the hearing.

Defense attorney David Partovi referred to the case against Castagna as “absolute garbage.”

“They better make sure they have a good case,” Partovi said. “I think the case is complicity with what Curtis wants. He certainly hasn’t been charged with anything and he has admitted to a crime.”

Castagna faces two counts of second-degree extortion, one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree extortion and three counts of second-degree theft. His trial was scheduled for April 17 at 9:30 a.m.

According to court records, Curtis met Castagna at the Hollywood Erotic Boutique in Spokane Valley where Curtis engaged in oral sex with another man. Curtis and Castagna later met in the Davenport Tower, where Curtis was staying for a House Republican retreat to discuss the upcoming legislative session.

Once in the hotel room, Curtis gave Castagna $100 before they engaged in sex acts, according to police reports.

After Curtis fell asleep, police reports allege that Castagna left the room with Curtis’ wallet, credit cards and Washington State Legislature ID. He later called Curtis, demanding the $1,000 that Castagna claimed he was owed for having unprotected sex, the reports allege.

Curtis – who voted against gay rights bills as a legislator – put $200 in an envelope and left it in the hotel lobby, according to reports.

Later, Castagna called Curtis a second time and demanded an additional $800, according to police reports. But by then, Spokane police detectives had been alerted to the case after Curtis called an acquaintance with the Washington State Patrol in the Vancouver area in an attempt to keep the matter out of the press, according to police reports.

Also charged in court documents are 20-year-old Robert H. Fletcher III, Joseph L. Castagna, 25, and 24-year-old Brandon D. Burchell, who face charges of second-degree extortion and conspiracy to commit second-degree extortion.

Fletcher is accused of picking up extortion money from Curtis at the Davenport Tower in exchange for a share of the cash. Joseph Castagna, Cody’s brother, and Burchell are alleged to have conspired with Cody Castagna to pick up more money at a second drop-off.

Partovi does not dispute that money exchanged hands between Curtis and Cody Castagna.

In a previous interview, Partovi said the money was not extortion, but a payment for prostitution.

On Oct. 29, Curtis told the Columbian newspaper in Vancouver that he is not gay and did not engage in sex with Castagna. But Curtis told Spokane police detectives a different story, and he resigned his position Oct. 31.

At one point, the legislator said he wished he had “just paid the additional money to the suspect because he didn’t wish the case to be prosecuted,” reports state.

Partovi said the case was unfortunate for all those involved.

“I want former Rep. Curtis to know that there are serious consequences for his false allegations,” Partovi said, “and we look forward to seeing him in cross-examination.”

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