June 17, 2008 in City

Gay porn model’s charges dropped

By The Spokesman-Review
 
File photo

Charges against Cody Castagna, including extortion and theft, have been dropped.
(Full-size photo)

Prosecutors have dropped all charges against gay porn model Cody Michael Castagna stemming from a sexual encounter in a Spokane hotel last October with a conservative state lawmaker that ended the Republican’s political career.

Castagna, a 27-year-old waiter and part-time porn model, was charged with six felony counts of extortion and theft after the evening with Richard Curtis, a 48-year-old Republican legislator from La Center, near Vancouver, Wash. Curtis, who opposed gay rights measures as a lawmaker, resigned from the Legislature shortly after the incident last October became public.

“I’m stoked,” Castagna said Monday. “But, you know, I would have hoped this would have happened a long time ago because they had nothing against me.” He said he suspects political pressure influenced the decision to pursue criminal charges against him without even contemplating sex solicitation charges against Curtis.

Castagna’s lawyer, David Partovi of Coeur d’Alene, said regardless of what prompted the dismissal order, prosecutors made the right call.

“I’m happy for Cody, but I really wanted to try this case,” Partovi said. “Everything about it was wrong from the beginning.”

Curtis sent a note Monday to Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz, saying he didn’t want to testify against Castagna. Steinmetz, supervisor of the Major Crimes unit, proposed the dismissal, signed by Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

“My wife, daughters, and son-in-law have paid a very high price for my actions. … My family and I have found ourselves closer as a result and are settled into a new chapter in our lives and are moving past this incident,” Curtis wrote in his note.

Curtis’ whereabouts is “unknown to the prosecution,” said Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Rachel Sterett.

Curtis likely would have made a terrible prosecution witness, Partovi said.

His assertions alone were the prosecution’s only suggestion that Castagna was engaged in an extortion scheme, Partovi said.

In January, Castagna pleaded innocent and said he “couldn’t believe” he was facing six felony counts while Curtis faced no charges. According to court records, Curtis met Castagna shortly before 1 a.m. Oct. 26 at the Hollywood Erotic Boutique in Spokane Valley, where Curtis was dressed as a woman in red stockings and black sequined lingerie and had engaged in oral sex with another man. An employee later told police that Curtis had been in the video store three times in the past month and they’d nicknamed him the “cross-dresser.”

Curtis and Castagna met later in the Davenport Tower, where Curtis had a room and was attending a House Republican retreat on the upcoming legislative session.

Curtis gave Castagna $100 before they engaged in sex acts, police reports say. When interviewed by police detectives, Curtis said he gave Castagna the $100 to help him out, but he was not paying him to have sex.

When Curtis fell asleep, Castagna allegedly left the room with Curtis’ wallet, credit cards and legislator’s ID, according to the police report. Police said Castagna later called Curtis, demanding $1,000 Castagna claimed he was owed for having unprotected sex at Curtis’ request. Reports say Curtis put $200 in an envelope and left it in the hotel lobby.

Partovi never disputed that money was exchanged between Castagna and Curtis. But he said the money was a payment for prostitution, not extortion.

Police detectives were alerted to the incident after Curtis called a member of the Washington State Patrol in Olympia in an effort to keep it out of the press.

“Curtis said he wanted the Washington State Patrol to investigate the incident because the local (Spokane) police would talk and it would get out to the press,” police reports say.

The WSP notified its branch in Spokane, which notified Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

On Oct. 29, Curtis told the Vancouver Columbian newspaper that he is not gay and did not have sex with Castagna. But he had told Spokane police detectives a different story, and the two-term legislator resigned his political position Oct. 31.

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” because of the risk to his career and his family, according to a report by Spokane Police Detective Tim Madsen.

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