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Student Pleads Not Guilty to Rape

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An 18-year-old California Lutheran University student pleaded not guilty Monday to sexual assault charges involving two female students at the Thousand Oaks campus.

Alejandro Castaneda, a Cal Lutheran freshman, stood silently in Ventura Court Superior Court as his lawyer entered the plea.

Dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit, the stocky student stood behind a metal court partition with his hands neatly folded in front of him.

Castaneda, a resident of Wilmington, is accused of raping and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female student on campus on the night of Oct. 15.

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Authorities have refused to say where on campus the alleged attack occurred. But they have said it did not involve a weapon.

Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies learned of the incident when they were called to Simi Valley Hospital, where the young woman went to be treated.

Castaneda, who was arrested Nov. 4, is charged with three counts of forcible oral copulation, one of forcible sodomy, one of forcible rape and one of penetration with a foreign object. All the charges are felonies.

Prosecutors filed an amended complaint Monday charging Castaneda with an added count of sexual battery by restraint, also a felony, involving a second Cal Lutheran student.

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Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Louisa McLean said the charges have been devastating for Castaneda and his family, who she said have been unable to post the $100,000 bail.

“This is a very traumatic situation,” McLean said. “He was on scholarship. He is a bright, football-playing student. . . . He has never been in trouble before.”

McLean said Castaneda earned a high grade-point in high school and was the first member of his family to go to college. She said he chose Cal Lutheran because he wanted to obtain “a Christian education.”

McLean declined to comment on the facts of the case or her client’s relationship with either of the young women he is accused of assaulting.

Prosecutor Adam Pearlman was out of the office Monday and could not be reached for comment.

McLean, an associate with the Century City law offices of Barry O. Bernstein, said she will not handle the case when it goes to a preliminary hearing on Dec. 13.

But she said Bernstein plans to launch a vigorous defense to the charges at that time.

Meanwhile, Castaneda remains in the Ventura County main jail.

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McLean asked Superior Court Judge Rebecca Riley to reduce the bail or release her client on his own recognizance. Riley declined the request and set a bail review hearing for Dec. 13.


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