It's difficult to know exactly when Orange County's Joey Ernest Castillo, 46, first went wrong.
Was it in 2004 when a Newport Beach police officer found Castillo between the legs of an intoxicated and passed out female lying on the beach near the Pacific Ocean with her underwear missing?
Was it in 2010 when he picked up a group of high school teenagers, provided jumbo-sized beer and malt liquor cans–and drove them in his PT Cruiser to a wild party in Anaheim?
Was it when he partially disrobed one of the kids, a drunk 16-year-old girl, in between parked cars on a public street and used her for sexual intercourse?
Was it when Anaheim Police Department (APD) officers arrested him for the assault on the minor and he decided to represent himself at trial against Jess Rodriguez, a veteran prosecutor inside the Orange County district attorney's office?
Or, was it when Rodriguez made a pretrial guilty plea offer for a six-year prison punishment–which represented the middle sentencing possibility–and the defendant rejected it, lost the jury verdict of forcible rape and won the maximum potential punishment?
Nowadays, Castillo insists he's a victim of a miscarriage of justice. He says he was found between the legs of the unconscious woman on the beach only because he was trying to revive her and was never convicted of a crime from the incident. Worse, he says his defense lawyers–the free ones provided before he fired them–failed to obtain critical surveillance video from a Shell gas station after the alleged 2004 rape–evidence he says would have shown the alleged victim happy and unharmed. He is unsettled that the girl waited 10 days before claiming to her parents that she'd been raped.
Castillo took his complaints to federal judges last year and this week learned his fate. Inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert N. Block reviewed the case, declared he wasn't bothered that the uncharged Newport Beach incident became evidence or with the trial in general. In recommending a rejection of the appeal, Block noted that the defendant concocted the gas station video claim after his conviction and that APD had successfully tricked him into changing his story after officers deceitfully claimed they'd found his DNA inside the victim's vagina. Unaware cops can legally lie to suspects during investigations, Castillo altered his tale from no sexual contact to an assertion that he had merely performed cunnilingus on her.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez accepted Block's findings and closed the case.
Inside his privately-run, medium-security prison home at Golden State Modified Correctional Facility in Kern County, Castillo is steaming. He says APD conducted a lopsided investigation that robbed him of exculpatory evidence and wrongly relied on a dishonest victim. He believes the prosecutor used the uncharged 2004 incident to inflame the jury and that's why they convicted him. “This isn't Russia, or Iran or North Korean,” he complained when he learned of Block's rejection recommendation.
Upshot: Castillo will continue to serve his eight-year prison sentence.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.