Questions about the involvement of alleged embezzler Daniel Casteel in a recent high-profile murder case, and exactly what Casteel got in return for his disputed testimony, continue to go unanswered as the Bishop man prepares for a court appearance next week.
Casteel is scheduled to appear in Inyo County Superior Court Tuesday, according to the Court Clerkâ€™s Office, for a settlement conference â€“ related to what, exactly, is unclear.
Assistant Court Executive Officer Ginny Bird said Casteel would be appearing in court related to three felony charges: grand theft of personal property, grand theft by use of a forged access card and use of a forged card to steal from dependents or seniors.
These charges stem from Casteelâ€™s arrest in June 2009 after allegedly defrauding and grifting the owner of Bishopâ€™s Sierra Gardens Nursery out of an undisclosed but reportedly large sum of money. Jim Roberts, the son of late nursery owner Nancy Roberts, said the alleged embezzlement is close to $150,000.
However, Court Executive Officer Tammi Grimm said Casteelâ€™s court appearance was related only to charges of alleged failure to appear and possession of a controlled substance.
A call to Inyo County Jail revealed Casteel is not actually being incarcerated on charges related to the alleged embezzlement arrest.
According to Inyo County Jail, Casteel is being held on several warrants, including Penal Code 476(a), basically bouncing checks; 1203.2, probation violation; 1302(a) failure to appear in court; and two counts of Health and Safety Code 11377, possession of a controlled substance.
The jailer said Casteel has been incarcerated on these warrants since March 14, 2011, with bail set at $100,000.
Casteel was serving time in Inyo County Jail in June 2009 â€“ on the original embezzlement arrest â€“ when he was moved into a jail cell next to murder suspect Louis LePlat, who was convicted April 29, 2011 of the second-degree murder of Bishop resident James Rambeau, Jr.
LePlatâ€™s trial started April 5 of this year.
According to LePlatâ€™s defense attorney, Neil Quinn, the Inyo County D.A.â€™s Office had arranged for Casteel to wear a wire during jailhouse conversations with LePlat â€“ in an effort to gather information that would back up D.A. Art Mailletâ€™s premeditated murder case.
In a recent letter to The Inyo Register, Casteel denies receiving any â€śsweet dealâ€ť from the D.A.â€™s Office in exchange for his testimony â€“ which Quinn said contradicted the testimony of all other witnesses.
Casteel said he testified because recordings made of him and LePlat were not admissible in court and, â€śit fell to me to repeat to the jury what Louis told me.â€ť
Casteel goes on to state, â€śI am embarrassed and ashamed. My involvement has been used to distract from, rather than convict Jamesâ€™ (Rambeau) killer.â€ť
Quinn said that it has cost Inyo County approximately $50,000 to have Casteel testify.
The Inyo Narcotics Enforcement Team said it could not comment on any investigation into Casteel.
The Inyo D.A.â€™s Office is still under a self-imposed gag order from speaking with the media and Maillet was reportedly on vacation on Friday, June 10.
According to his office, Maillet is also the sole prosecutor for Casteelâ€™s case.
Quinn said in April during the LePlat trial that Casteel had recently skipped out of a drug rehabilitation facility he was court-ordered to attend in the Bay Area, but â€śmysteriously show(ed) up just two weeks before the trial.â€ť Casteel was not criminally charged for running out of the rehab center.
Despite Casteelâ€™s denial of any deal, Roberts said the D.A. â€śignoredâ€ť the embezzlement charges, after Nancy Roberts passed away in July 2010. Roberts explained it was Quinnâ€™s questioning of Casteel during the LePlat case that finally prompted the D.A. to press the embezzlement charges in April 2011.
Quinn said in May that he was going to â€śdo whatever I canâ€ť to make sure Casteel stays in jail and receives the full punishment for his crimes.
Roberts wondered how the D.A. could even allow a felon to stay at such a minimal security facility. Roberts added that the actions of the D.A.â€™s office and Maillet, â€śmakes me question the safety of our seniors in Inyo County.â€ť
A tentative trial date for Casteel has been set for July 11. Which case this trial involves was not immediately clear at press time.