OTTAWA — The judge sounded a bit like a prosecutor Tuesday in the sentencing hearing for a 20-year-old Leipsic man on sexual battery charges.
Putnam County Common Pleas Court Judge Keith Schierloh methodically questioned Zachariah Casteel about his actions on April 6, 2018, on the then-19-year-old’s first date with a 15-year-old girl. Schierloh repeatedly using the term “15-year-old girl” to emphasize the age difference before Casteel instigated sexual relations.
“You knew you were wrong, correct?” Schierloh asked.
Casteel, barely audible over construction on the courthouse’s roof, replied, “Yes.”
Schierloh sentenced Casteel to three years in prison and five years probation upon release on the sexual battery charge, a third-degree felony. He could request release early, Schierloh noted. He also labeled Casteel a tier-three sexual offender, meaning he must register his whereabouts every three months for the rest of his life.
Casteel’s victim chose not to deliver a victim impact statement.
Casteel originally faced a first-degree felony charge of rape but pleaded to the reduced charge in August.
Casteel raised the judge’s ire in the midst of the questioning about the first date between the man and the girl. Casteel acknowledged he didn’t stop the sexual interaction when the victim told him to stop, but he disagreed about how far along in the act they were before she voiced her lack of consent.
A text message from Casteel to his victim showed the immediacy of his realization of the consequences, when he told the girl he didn’t want to go to jail.
Casteel’s attorney requested community control for him, noting he hadn’t been in trouble with the law before the incident or since he bonded out of the Putnam County Jail after 11 days there. Defense attorney Drew Mihalik noted Casteel’s proven willingness to go to counseling in Ottawa first before finding sessions meant for sexual offenders in Napoleon.
Ultimately, Schierloh said he couldn’t let the crime go unpunished, even asking Casteel once if he thought his actions deserved to be punished. Casteel said yes.
“The court cannot look away from the crime that this is,” Schierloh said.