By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO May 15, 2001 Richard Castellano, the ex-con-turned-actor who gained a few minutes of fame appearing with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This and most recently added a lot of headline credits for a series of scams perpetrated against local folks, was scheduled to appear before Sullivan County Judge Frank LaBuda on Friday.
But Castellano once again was a no-show.
Castellano was to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., his Manhattan-based attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz, told Judge LaBuda and Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen that he had received a late night phone call advising him that Castellano had just been arrested by the NYPD while attempting to jump naked off the Verrazano Bridge.
According to Schwartz, his client had been committed to the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital.
Lungen subsequently asked Judge LaBuda to issue a bench warrant for Castellano so he can be returned to face sentencing in Sullivan County.
Mr. Castellano needs to be in custody, said Lungen.
Afterwards, Lungen said that serving a bench warrant on Castellano in Bellevue may be difficult, but the hospital and local police will be notified of the warrant for his arrest.
According to an investigation by the DAs office of the claims that Castellano was poised to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge naked, the truth of the matter was a little different than that presented in court.
He wasnt naked. He wasnt close to any bridge, and he wasnt arrested by the police. But he is in Bellevue, apparently temporarily out of reach of the law for at least 30-90 days.
NYC EMTs reportedly discovered Castellano wandering around half-clothed on Manhattans East Side. He was taken to Bellevue for observation.
On Friday, April the 13th, Castellano (aka Castaldo) was to appear before LaBuda for sentencing. Instead, Schwartz told the court and a rather incredulous DA that his client was in a drug rehab program at New York Presbyterian Hospital, suffering from addiction to painkillers and a few too many shots to the head while a professional boxer.
Judge LaBuda ordered Castellano to appear within 24 hours of his release from rehab. He reportedly checked out of the rehab program about a week ago but never showed up in Sullivan County Court.
Castellano had previously been indicted by a grand jury of four felony counts of grand larceny and one felony count of a scheme to defraud. The charges stemmed from allegations that he took money from local people, promising to get them Screen Actors Guild (SAG) cards. The aspiring actors never got the cards, and Castellano spent the money.
In a plea bargain, Castellano was to be sentenced to a year in jail on reduced misdemeanor charges. If he didnt make $12,000 restitution on the SAG scams, he was looking at an additional year behind bars.
Last week, the continuing saga of Castellano played out to a small audience: Judge LaBuda, DA Lungen, officers of the court and a handful of spectators including the parents of one of his SAG victims, his former attorney, and John Borg, who says he was ripped off for almost $200,000 by the actor and his wife, Jocelyne.
After court was adjourned, Lungen met briefly in the hallway outside Courtroom #1 with the small group of interested spectators.
I have no problem with the lawyer in this case, but Im very cynical when it comes to Mr. Castellano, he said. I think this is all part of his own movie . . . [with] Robert DeNiro directing.
John Borg showed up in court with a manila envelope plainly marked Castellano or Castaldo! for all the world to see.
While the court and spectators were waiting for Castellanos non-appearance, Borg pulled out photocopies of checks he said were proof he loaned more than $150,000 to Richard Castellano and/or Jocelyne Castellano for their yet-to-be-released independent film Four Deadly Reasons.
According to Borg, he figures hes out close to $192,000 by the time he calculates lost interest and early withdrawal penalties.
But he has one fond memento of Richard Castellano an 8x10 B&W publicity shot of the actor in happier days. The photo has a home over his toilet, so Borg says he gets to see Castellano every morning. But the small-time, 67-year old egg producer from Narrowsburg also carries around a copy as part of his files on the Castellanos and their company, Atlantia Films.
The head shot is inscribed, Papa John. Youre the Best. God Bless You. You Are a Real Good Friend. R. Castellano, 1999.
And thats the nicest thing youll hear about Castellano when it comes to Borg.
Hes a con artist, a hardcore criminal, a big liar, said Borg. If I was the judge, Id throw away the key on him. I hope somebodys going to get him, one way or another.
The Castellanos could not be reached for comment.