Judge Voids Munitions-Smuggling Charges Against First Lady's Maid

Associated Press

A federal judge on Monday dismissed the munitions-smuggling case against Nancy Reagan's personal maid after the prosecutor said he had found no criminal intent.

Anita Sanabria Castelo, 45, and two men were arrested after federal investigators found 350,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition aboard a Paraguayan freighter docked at Richmond's Deepwater Terminal.

"Thank the Lord!" she said after her appearance before U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr.

Michael Morchower, Castelo's attorney, said he had come to court prepared for trial and had an affidavit from the First Lady attesting to his client's good character.

Castelo was placed on administrative leave last August, after her arrest. When asked whether she would be reinstated to her White House job, she replied, "I hope so."

Mrs. Reagan's press secretary, Elaine Crispen, said the First Lady was "anxious to have her back at work."

The captain of the freighter, Julio Cesar Baez Acosta, and Eugenio Silva, a Richmond automobile mechanic, have pleaded guilty to attempting to export munitions without a license.

U.S. Atty. Henry Hudson said the three had gone to a Richmond discount store on Aug. 4 to purchase the ammunition, which was later loaded aboard the ship. He said that Castelo acted as interpreter for the men when they bought the ammo.

Hudson said he decided to seek dismissal of the case against Castelo after Baez Acosta, as part of his plea, indicated that she had not been aware that the transaction was illegal.

Merhige allowed Baez Acosta, 39, and Silva, 40, to remain free on bond pending sentencing on Dec. 5.

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