Former Barbacoa owner Castoro sentenced to jail for felony drug possession

Robert Castoro, who was convicted of drug possession in April, apologized for his failings Friday.

“I am truly and genuinely sorry,” Castoro, 48, told 4th District Judge Melissa Moody. “I take full responsibility and accountability for all of my actions — past, present and future. I know I have no one else to blame for the situation I am in now.”

An Ada County jury found Castoro guilty of possessing cocaine last year. He gave police a small vial with drug residue — and asked them to test for impurities — when they came knocking at his door to ask questions about bruises on his fiancee after receiving a report of a domestic dispute on June 9, 2014.

He had also faced a charge of felony domestic battery with traumatic injury, but the jury found him not guilty.

“Prior to this incident, I was never in trouble with the law, and I guarantee I never will be again,” Castoro told the judge.

Moody said she received many letters in support of Castoro. She said they spoke in glowing terms about his generosity in the community.

“I do believe that our community is better off with you in it than with you in jail,” she said. But she said there had been a side to his life that has been a “train wreck.”

She sentenced Castoro to 30 days in jail, with option for work release after the first five days. He was ordered to pay $1,280 in fines and fees and $5,000 in restitution.

Castoro, who opened the popular Barbacoa restaurant in 2007, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

He will be on probation for three years, and his probation officer will have an option of levying 60 days of discretionary jail time if he believes Castoro is violating probation terms.

Moody granted a withheld judgment, so if Castoro completes his probation successfully, he can petition the court to dismiss the case.

“I know you have the tools, drive and intelligence to succeed on probation and put all this behind you,” the judge said.

He had faced up to seven years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine on the drug possession conviction. Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Fafa Alidjani recommended seven years, including two fixed, with the court retaining jurisdiction and reconsidering probation after completion of a 90-day treatment program.

Mark Manweiler, Castoro’s attorney, said his client’s reputation was besmirched when an error on the Ada County Jail website listed the initial charge against him as possession with intent to deliver and/or manufacture. Castoro said some media organizations continued to report the error.

“The fact is, I am not a drug lord,” he said.

Castoro told Moody that he has lost a lot since his felony conviction. He said he lost the right to skydive and fly airplanes, and he lost his liquor license. He said he was forced to sell his business to his sister, costing tens of thousands of dollars and “north of seven figures” in tax liability.

He also said losing the business he worked so hard to build was life-changing. Barbacoa, which has 140 employees, led all Idaho establishments in liquor sales in 2014.