OTTAWA — A moment of confusion followed the change of plea of a Leipsic man charged with rape Wednesday in Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
Zachariah Casteel, 20, of Leipsic agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery, a third-degree felony, pleading down from the original charge of rape, a first-degree felony. As part of the deal, Casteel was required to recount his crime.
Casteel was not forthcoming with details even after Judge Keith Schierloh asked him specific questions about what happened on or about April 6, 2018 when Casteel used force or threat of force to compel a 15-year-old girl into having sexual intercourse with him.
After the defendant gave vague answers to his questions, a frustrated Schierloh asked Todd Schroeder, assistant prosecutor, to recite the facts of the case the state was striving to prove should the case had gone to trial. Casteel had been driving with the underage girl in a vehicle when, against her wishes, he pulled off the road and engaged in intercourse with her while she protested and fought against him, Schoeder said.
Casteel agreed this was an accurate recounting of events. He insisted the girl hadn’t protested but had, in fact, wanted to have sex, he said.
Schierloh asked the defendant multiple times if he’d compelled the girl or not, and at first, Casteel insisted he hadn’t. The judge reminded him it was still possible to take the case to trial where the state would have to prove without a reasonable doubt he had raped the girl.
After a few moments conversing with his attorney, Drew Mihalik, Casteel said he wanted to continue with the plea deal and agreed he’d coerced the victim. Schierloh accepted the deal.
Casteel faces a maximum of 60 months in jail on the charge of sexual battery. He will also be given a mandatory five years of community control and be required to register as a Tier 3 sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life. He could also face a maximum fine of $10,000.
A sentencing and sexual classification hearing has been set for 10 a.m. Oct. 24 in Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362