Miguel Angelo Castro didn't plead guilty outright, but in court Tuesday morning, he entered an Alford plea — meaning he realizes the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him of a charge of pandering.
Castro, 26, of 8501 Allentown Road, Fort Washington, Md., and Joshua Brandon Tart, 26, of 13110 Point Pleasant Drive in Chantilly, were both arrested April 1 by Fairfax County police and charged with pandering and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
On Tuesday in Circuit Court, the clerk stated that on June 19, the grand jury indicted Castro because — between March 11 and April 1 — he "did knowingly receive money from a female engaged in prostitution." He then gave his Alford plea and also told Judge Gaylord Finch that he only had a 10th-grade education.
"Are you entering the plea freely and voluntarily?" asked the judge. "Yes, sir," replied Castro. But before accepting it, Finch had Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Camille Turner relate the facts of the case to him.
SHE SAID that, on April 1, Det. Jeffrey Hunt of the City of Fairfax Police Department was investigating a case of a runaway, 16-year-old girl along the I-95 corridor. The trail, she said, led him to the Fairfield Inn at 3960 Corsair Court in Chantilly.
He then notified Fairfax County police since the hotel is in their jurisdiction. When officers responded, they found the girl there with Tart and Castro.
"The room was registered to Tart, who had an outstanding warrant for contributing to the delinquency of a minor," said Turner. "Tart was taken into custody on that warrant and, during the arrest, baggies of suspected marijuana were seen on the desk."
She said further investigation revealed that the teen-ager and the two men had met in March when she ran away from home. According to Turner, Castro and Tart "began posting ads on the Internet advertising sex [from the girl] on craigslist.org."
Once prospective customers responded, she said, "Arrangements [for sex] were made by phone, and the girl would provide oral sex or sexual intercourse for a previously arranged fee. The proceeds were used to purchase food, hotel rooms, drugs and alcohol."
Turner said Castro stated that he waited outside the room while the girl and the clients were inside. She said that, after his arrest on April 1, the solidly built Castro told police Det. Wayne Promisel that "he was to provide security if he had to, but it wasn't necessary. At first, he said he thought Tart's money came from the sale of marijuana, but he then admitted that he had an idea that Tart and [the victim] were involved in prostitution."
Then, returning to Castro's plea, Judge Finch asked him, "Are you entering your Alford plea because you don't want to take the risk that you could be found guilty if this case went to trial?" Replied Castro: "Yes, sir."
After noting that he finds "substantial evidence of [Castro's] guilt," Finch then made sure Castro understood that, because of this conviction, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison, a minimum of two years and a fine of up to $100,000.
The judge also noted that there's no agreement between Turner and defense attorney Kimberly Phillips on Castro's sentence. And he acknowledged that his other charge — contributing to the delinquency of a minor — had been dropped earlier in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
"Do you understand that, by pleading guilty, you may waive your right to appeal?" Again, Castro answered affirmatively. Finch then accepted his Alford plea of guilt, found him guilty and set his sentencing for July 28. Castro then returned to jail, where he's been held for almost three months now.
As for Tart, he's also charged with producing sexually explicit material and distributing marijuana to a minor. The June 19 grand jury indicted him on these charges, plus the pandering charge. He's scheduled for a jury trial, Aug. 21, in Circuit Court.