Newhall restaurateur guilty of sexual battery of his former employee

The Santa Clarita Courthouse. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.
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A Newhall Restaurant owner was found guilty by a jury Friday of two counts of simple battery and two counts of sexual battery following a weeklong trial at the Santa Clarita Courthouse.

Sam Albert Gardian, 48, co-owner of the Southern Smoke BBQ & Brewhouse in Newhall, was charged with two counts of sexual battery and two counts of simple battery.

Late Friday afternoon, a jury issued their verdict of guilty, having found him responsible for the four incidents of battery against his former employee, Jessica Castillo.

“The verdict came back guilty on all counts,” Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

“The defendant was remanded into custody and sentencing was scheduled for (Monday) March 26,” he said.

In describing the two counts of “simple battery,” Deputy District Attorney Taylor Carr told jurors in her opening statements a week ago that Gardian “smacked” Castillo in the back of her head and grabbed her tongue with his thumb and forefinger and shook it.

In describing the first of two counts of sexual battery, Carr said 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.”

The second alleged incident of sexual battery happened, she said, 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 said.

“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.”

For Gardian’s attorney, David Diamond, Friday’s verdict was a travesty of justice.

“I respect the jury system immensely,” he told The Signal shortly after the verdict was delivered.

“As it relates to today’s decision, we witnessed a travesty of justice,” Diamond said. “Today, an innocent man was convicted.”

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