Former Philadelphia police inspector Danny Castro vowed to fight the five year prison term he was slapped with on Tuesday, contending as he has all along, that he is the victim in a federal extortion case.
"I'm no criminal. I'm no thief," Castro said outside court. "I certainly don't deserve the punishment that was handed down today."
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Castro, 48, was once a rising star in the department who aspired to be Police Commissioner. That is, until he "behaved like a common criminal," according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen.
Castro made a bad investment and when he couldn't get his $60,000 back on his own, the feds say Castro resorted to finding someone who could strong-arm the investor. The feds say Castro consented to using physical force, if that what it took to get his money, plus an additional $30,000 back. Castro didn't know it at the time, but his middle man was working undercover for the FBI.
When Castro's case went to trial in the spring, the jury found him guilty of lying to the FBI, but deadlocked on eight of the 10 charges. After that, facing a retrial, Castro entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit extortion. That's what he was sentenced for on Tuesday. But Castro, his mother and the 15 other people who testified on his behalf, pleading for community service in lieu of prison, were stunned when the judge gave him more prison time than the federal guidelines recommended.
Lappen said the judge wanted to make a strong statement.
"To send a message to the community that the justice system will not tolerate this conduct, particularly from a high-ranking police officer," Lappen said.
Castro's story has always been that he was betrayed by two men he considered friends. His supporters contended that he was a good cop, a good civil servant who one day had a temporary lapse in judgment. A man "who I believe should not go to jail but. . .use this as a potential teaching moment for young people and to continue to serve the community in another capacity," said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez.
Going from top cop to tarnished cop didn't happen in a day, the prosecutor argued.
"This was not a bad day for Mr. Castro, this was not a momentary lapse of judgment. This was a crime committed over several months, repeatedly, again and again," said Lappen.
Castro has to report to federal prison by November 15, 2011.