Crime

Jury finds Barbacoa owner guilty of drug charge, not guilty of domestic battery

An Ada County jury decided Thursday after about four hours of deliberation that a well-known Boise restaurateur was not guilty of beating his former fiance but did possess cocaine.

Robert Castoro, 48, had pleaded not guilty to charges of felony domestic battery with traumatic injury and possession of a controlled substance.

The woman Castoro was accused of beating testified, as did her mother. Castoro did not take the stand.

The prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments Thursday morning, and the jury of 10 men and two women began deliberating about 10:20 a.m.

Castoro will be sentenced in July. Conviction of felony drug possession is punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine.

Idahoans who have been convicted of a felony in the past five years may not hold a liquor license, according to Teresa Baker, a spokeswoman for Idaho State Police Alcohol Beverage Control.

Barbacoa had the top liquor sales by dollar value in the state in 2014, selling more than 14,300 bottles with a total value of more than $291,000, according to the Idaho State Liquor Division’s bar-sales report.

Baker said Barbacoa representatives had been talking to ABC officials about the possibilities for transferring the liquor license to someone else. No transfer has been made yet.

Idaho secretary of state business records online show that in February, Robert Castoro’s Bella Fortuna Investment Group Inc. was removed as the entity doing business as Barbacoa. At the same time, LDC Investment Group Inc. was added. LDC’s incorporator is listed as Lea Diane Castoro.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

In her remarks Thursday, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Fafa Alidjani told the jury that the evidence that Castoro possessed cocaine — his recorded statements to police, his providing a vial with residue, and the results of tests by the state lab — is strong.

“That’s about as good as it gets,” Alidjani said.

Tests done on Castoro’s fiancee, who was transported to a local hospital June 9 after police found her body had several bruises, showed that she had cocaine in her system.

Castoro attorney Mark Manweiler said the results of the state lab tests left plenty of room for doubt that the substance in the vial was cocaine. He said the first test done by the lab had inconclusive results — so a different test was done, and he said it was an effort to get a result to help the police investigation.

There wasn’t a “perfect scientific match,” Manweiler said, showing the jury a page from a lab report that indicated multiple substances were in the vial.

Manweiler also said there was no direct evidence that Castoro ever beat his fiancee.

‘OUT OF HER MIND’

The 30-year-old woman, who had been in a relationship with Castoro for more than two years, was intoxicated on alcohol and drugs the nights she suffered the injuries and had no recollection of what occurred. She testified that when she asked Castoro what happened, he told her that he’d become angry at her and beat her the way he’d beat a man in a bar fight.

Manweiler told the jury that the woman — he called her “out of her mind” on alcohol and drugs — lied about the incident and her mother backed her up. He said neither was a credible witness, and their accounts didn’t match.

Manweiler said the prosecution of Castoro occurred only after he stopped providing financial support to his ex-fiancee, who broke off their engagement and moved out a few days after the June 9 hospital visit.

Alidjani said the defense had painted the woman as shallow and interested only in Castoro’s money, but Castoro was the one who chose to lavish her with money and gifts.

The deputy prosecutor said Castoro’s ex-fiancee is not perfect. She described the way the woman has used alcohol and drugs to cope with life as a “mess,” but said that didn’t mean the injuries she suffered were self-inflicted or due to “kinky sex,” as Castoro told police.

The woman said she had never suffered such serious injuries during sex before, and they were not intimate during the time frame she suffered the bruises.

Alidjani declined to comment after the verdict. Manweiler said neither he nor Castoro would comment.

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