Charlie H. Castillo wants to withdraw guilty plea after admitting role in prostituting teen in Augusta

An Augusta man who pleaded guilty to his role in prostituting a teenage girl told a judge Tuesday he’s really not guilty.


Charlie H. Castillo, 32, insisted on testifying Tuesday in U.S. District Court against the advice of his attorney and the judge’s words of caution.

Castillo’s attorney, Michael C. Garrett, filed the motion to withdraw Castillo’s guilty plea at his client’s request. Such a motion is rarely successful in federal courts where judges employ an extensive discussion with defendants when they enter guilty pleas.

Senior U.S. Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. followed the same pattern when Castillo pleaded guilty on Jan. 13 to conspiracy to engage in the sex trafficking of a minor.

But Tuesday, Castillo insisted he misunderstood his plea because he thought it was illegal to operate an escort service that provided companionship, not sex. That’s why he pleaded guilty, Castillo said, but then he found out it isn’t illegal to operate a legitimate escort service.

At the January hearing, however, FBI Special Agent Charles McKee testified that Castillo developed a script for a 16-year-old girl to use when she went on “dates.” There is no question she was to engage in sex, McKee testified.

The judge took the motion under advisement and will issue his ruling in an order.

If Bowen denies the motion, or grants it and Castillo is later convicted of the charge, his punishment could be enhanced by his quest to withdraw his plea. In federal court, defendants who plead guilty are given sentencing reductions for acceptance of responsibility.

Castillo has other legal trouble. He is now under indictment in federal court facing two counts of kidnapping, three counts of assault and one count of attempted escape. According to the indictment, Castillo is accused of holding two Lincoln County Jail guards against their will, and assaulting them and a third guard during an escape attempt on March 25.

Castillo has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which are punishable by as much as life in prison.

In the sex trafficking case, Daniels, William W. Hart, Heather L. Hedrick and Allison Barnes also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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