A sheriff’s deputy testifying at the trial of a local restaurateur accused of sexual battery against a woman who once worked for him said the woman gave him different versions of the same incident.
Sam Albert Gardian, 48, co-owner of the Southern Smoke BBQ & Brewhouse in Newhall, is charged with two counts of sexual battery and two counts of simple battery.
Gardian allegedly committed the four misdemeanor counts against Jessica Castillo during four separate incidents, prosecutors said.
Deputy Eric Capeloa, who now works at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, told jurors at the Santa Clarita Courthouse on Tuesday that he interviewed and took statements from Castillo in April 2016, when he was a deputy in training.
Capeloa explained to the jury how he takes reports from victims.
“After I make initial contact, I ask them to tell me what actually happened. As they tell me the entire story, I’m making mental notes,” he said. “I then relay the story back to them to see if there was anything I needed to clarify.”
Defense attorney David Diamond asked Capeloa specifically about his interview with Castillo.
“Her second version of events were slightly different from what she told me,” he said.
Capeloa was the first witness called to the stand by Gardian’s lawyer.
Deputy District Attorney Taylor Carr had wrapped up the prosecution’s case Tuesday after briefly questioning Castillo on the stand.
Clutching a pink stuffed animal, Castillo finished two days of testimony explaining the civil lawsuit she filed against Gardian was in reference to working conditions, and not the criminal charges being considered by the jury.
With regards to the first sexual battery claim, it’s the prosecution’s assertion that Gardian, holding a piece of ice, shoved his hand down the back of the woman’s pants, under her underwear and “up against her vagina.”
On Tuesday, Capeloa testified Castillo did not mention her vagina being touched in her initial account of what had happened.
“In the first incident, she said he used his bare hand to touch her buttocks,” he said.
With regards to the second alleged incident of sexual battery, Carr in her opening statement said it happened in the restaurant’s parking lot as Castillo was getting into her car.
“He followed her out to the car and grabbed the driver’s door before she could close it,” Carr told the jury Friday.
“He leaned into the cab of the car and shoved his hand down the front of her pants, under her underwear with his hand lingering on her vagina — for what probably, to her, seemed like an eternity — for about four or five seconds.”
Capeloa testified Tuesday, however, that Castillo first told him the alleged second incident happened inside the restaurant, later saying it happened in the parking lot.
He also told the jury Castillo said she stood face to face with Gardian.
“That doesn’t mean she was sitting, is that right?” Diamond asked the deputy.
“That’s correct,” Capeloa said.
Capeloa said his report indicates Castillo got into her car and drove away.
“When you get in your car, it’s understood that you’re not in your car, is that correct?” Diamond asked the deputy.
“Yes,” Capeloa said.
Diamond called as his second witness Deputy Alicia Ramirez, a 12-year veteran with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station who served as Capeloa’s Field Training Officer the day he took statements from Castillo.
“Did you communicate to him (Capeloa) the importance of being accurate in his report?” Diamond asked her. Ramirez testified that she had.
She then testified that she stands behind Capeloa’s report that Castillo had changed her story, believing the report to be accurate and true.
The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday.
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