Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
MAKING A POINT: Temporarily out of handcuffs, Richard Castellano, center, gestures toward a witness at the Tusten Town Court in Narrowsburg recently. He is flanked by SC Sheriffs Deputy Charles Mack, left, and Tusten Justice Ralph Huebner. At the time, Castellano was serving time in the local jail.
Tusten Court the Scene
Of a Dramatic Case
By Ted Waddell
NARROWSBURG August 25, 2000 With claims and counterclaims flying through the air around Narrowsburg, it seems only one things for sure: Richard J. Castaldo (aka Richard J. Castellano) is in hot water with area residents.
In August 1999, Richard and Jocelyne Castellano (they both have a short list of akas) co-produced the Narrowsburg International Indepen-dent Film Festival (NIIFF). Earlier in the year, they were involved in filming Four Deadly Reasons, an independent film by Atlantia Films, a company reportedly owned by Jocelyne Castellano.
Shortly thereafter, he started The Richard Castellano Acting Studio, an acting class for folks with aspirations of careers on the silver screen.
As the plot thickened theres a joke going around town now that the plot is thinning the Castellanos have recently been besieged with court actions claiming they defrauded investors in the film or students in the acting class, and/or didnt pay members of the film crew and/or local vendors who provided goods/services during the first annual NIIFF.
Richard Castellano also faces civil charges in the Town of Cochecton Court. Several criminal charges against him are pending before the Tusten Court. And his financial dealings are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Sullivan County District Attorneys Office and the New York State Police.
Castellano in Court
On Wednesday, the actor, who gained brief notoriety by appearing with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal in the feature film Analyze This after serving five years of a 12-year sentence for armed robbery, spent a long day before Town of Tusten Court Justice Ralph Huebner.
Castellano put on quite a performance before the court, at one point causing Judge Huebner to warn Castellano that he would be charged with contempt unless he quieted down.
I live in a dream world, he told the local judge. I live the roles I play.
Early in the day-long proceedings (10:25 a.m-6 p.m.), Huebner remarked from the bench, Im the judge here, after Castellano voiced concerns when several of his objections during a civil action filed by local attorney Deb Ireland were overruled. Ireland said she had been retained by the Castellanos because they owed people money, had written dozens of bad checks and were reportedly seeking to sue the local daily (and people quoted in an article) for damages.
After he didnt pay me, I began to investigate him, said Ireland.
She billed the Castellanos for $1,522.50 (she was paid $60). Subsequent to hearing the civil action, Huebner ruled that Ireland should be paid the remaining $1,462.50.
During the first civil case (Ireland vs. Castellano), the actors former bodyguard and acting class student Armondo Bilancione appeared in court as a witness in later cases. Castellano has filed a case against the former cop for alleged aggravated assault before the Cochecton Court, while Bilancione has filed criminal charges against the actor, saying he stole $1,100 from him in August 1999.
As Castellano reacted to the appearance of Bilancione and the turn of events in the civil action brought by Ireland, Judge Huebner admonished him, This is not a game were playing, this is not a stage, this is a court in the state of New York.
Other judgments in favor of the plaintiffs during Wednesdays small claims civil cases included Janet Syre of Lackawaxen, Pa. ($2,614.60 for food and gratuities); Amy Bostwick of NYC, assistant cameraman ($1,460); Gregory Boullokus of Barryville, who said during a heated exchange with Castellano, You duped me in ($335); Luis Colon of NYC ($875); George Gatter of NYC ($941); Matt Nelson of Barryville ($970); Mark Sherman of Forest Hills ($1,110); Dianna Solomon of NYC ($120); Adam Naumovitz of Barryville ($95); Tamar Gadish of NYC ($400), Ni Ni Than of NYC ($1,200 Castellano asked her to settle for this amount rather than $1,220, so Ill win something here today.)
As Gatter presented his evidence before the court he originally claimed $775 for breach of contract and non-payment of wages, in addition to $2,200 for fraudulent use of employees credit card and slander Judge Huebner advised him to pursue the allegations of fraud as a criminal matter.
During his presentation before the court, Gatter called Bilancione as a witness. Castellanos comments in response to statements made by his former bodyguard caused the judge to tell him, Shut up! Youre not in a theatre. Youre not in a movie, and you dont have a script to follow.
In a subsequent action, Huebner granted a temporary restraining order against Richard Castellano (and any third parties) at Gatters request.
Youve got one problem: your mouth, Judge Huebner said to Castellano. You cant control it.
During the proceeding involving the Gang of Fourteen, a group of former film and NIIFF employees who felt theyd gotten stiffed by NIIFF, Castellano said, That dont make no sense my wifes the one with the brains . . . Im getting railroaded here!
As the list of civil cases drew to a close, Castellano told the court he would take full responsibility for the judgments awarded to the complainants.
I will pay everyone as soon as I get out of jail and can get back to work on a movie, he said.
Before court adjourned for the day, Castellano asked the judge for a total of the judgments.
This way, he said, Ill know whether to jump off a bridge or not.
In several cases, the final amounts awarded to the plaintiffs were larger than the amount originally requested because Huebner ruled that interest could be added to the total amount due.
According to NYS Law, Castellano has 30 days in which to appeal the civil judgments against him.
Judge Huebner stipulated that Castellano must pay the plaintiffs in full within two weeks unless he makes other arrangements with them. If he does not fulfill these legal obligations, the plaintiffs can contact the County Court in order to institute liens against assets/property owned by Castellano (et al).
According to public documents on record at the Town of Tusten Court, the small claims were filed against Richard Castellano aka Richard Castaldo-Castellano aka Richard J. Castellano, doing business as Atlantia Films, and Jocelyne Castellano aka Jocelyne Castaldo-Castellano aka Maria-Helene Rousseau aka Marie Rousseau, dba Atlantia Films and/or the Narrowsburg International Independent Film Festival.
The judgments were filed against Richard Castellano (et al).
Richard Castellano was returned to the Sullivan County lockup after the civil cases on Wednesday. As of yesterday morning, he is still in jail on $25,000 bail.
What They Have to Say
Neither of the Castellanos could be reached for comment.
Larry Revene of Bearsville, NY, a 30-year filmmaker, worked for the Castellanos as director of photography during the filming of Four Deadly Reasons. He spearheaded the organization of the Gang of Fourteen in their efforts to recover lost wages, calling the film and the festival a disgrace to the film industry.
In remarks made outside of court, Revene claimed the producers of the film knew at least three months in advance that the entire film would not be shown at the second annual NIIFF in August. People paid $25 to see disjointed snippits of the film.
(According to previous remarks made by Jocelyne Castellano, the films editor had abruptly left the post-production phase, leaving other members in the lurch and delaying the movies release. Shortly after the conclusion of this years film festival, she promised that the completed film will be screened free of charge at the Tusten Theatre in late September.)
Revene said ownership of the film is now in the hands of an unnamed party in NYC.
Revene said when a check issued to him by the Castellanos bounced, the actor said, Its either the movie or the morgue.
However, Revene noted that he was eventually paid in full for his work on the film.
Yesterday, Richard Castellano was due back in the Town of Tusten Court for a closed-court preliminary hearing regarding three allegations of grand larceny, defined as a 4th degree felony in NYS. He was represented by Mark J. Sherman, a staff attorney with the Sullivan Legal Aid Bureau, Inc. of Monticello.
According to felony complaints filed before the court on August 10, Castellano is charged with stealing $2,100 from Matthew Nelson, $2,000 from Carmin Surace and $1,100 from Armondo Bilancione, the first two of whom appeared yesterday in court.
Late reports indicated that case will be held over for grand jury action.
Castellano is scheduled to appear before Judge Huebner at 10 a.m. on Friday in regards to two criminal charges: a $5,000 bad check he allegedly issued to John Borg, and an alleged assault against Robert Schaeffer.
On Sept. 8, Castellano is due back in the Town of Tusten Court to answer seven civil complaints. On Sept. 18, he is reportedly scheduled to appear in the Town of Cochecton Court to answer several matters.