The Linwood man whose arrest made national headlines in 2013 has seen his three-year long case come to an end with a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in his favor.
David Connor Castellani, 23, will remain in the state’s pretrial intervention program after the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office petition for certification was denied by the state Supreme Court, according to Castellani's attorney Steve Scheffler.
“We are beyond thrilled with the Supreme Court’s decision to prevent the prosecutor from further delaying justice to Connor,” Scheffler said in a statement. “The fact that a final resolution of this matter took over three years is beyond comprehension.”
If Castellani completes the PTI program he will be cleared of all charges against him, according to his attorney.
Castellani was indicted in 2015 after allegedly threatening and using force against Officer Darrin Lorady and resisting arrest by several officers outside Tropicana Atlantic City in 2013.
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A videotape taken by security cameras at the casino showed Castellani arguing with officers around 3:00 a.m. on June 15, 2013. He walked away from the officers and across the street, where he continued to yell at them. He then walked back towards the officers yelling and pointing and then was taken down by Lorady, with other officers quickly running toward the scene. K-9 Officer Sterling Wheaten then pulled up and released his police dog.
After the incident, a grand jury cleared the officers of wrongdoing and charged Castellani, who required over 200 stitches from the police dog, with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. He also was indicted on a lesser charge of inflicting harm on a law enforcement animal.
After pleading not guilty, Castellani applied for pretrial intervention (PTI), which allows defendants without a criminal record to avoid prosecution.
A PTI application is a multiple step process, Scheffler said. First, the PTI coordinator has to accept him into the program, which he was. Then, the prosecutor’s office has to sign off on it, which it didn’t.
Judge Michael Donio disagreed with the prosecutor’s decision, which Scheffler said is highly irregular, and put Castellani in the program anyway.
The prosecutor’s office then appealed to the NJ Appellate Division and ultimately the New Jersey Supreme Court, who on Monday denied the prosecutor’s request.
“The fact that the Atlantic County prosecutor fought a losing battle to the Supreme Court should be unacceptable,” Scheffler said. “Fortunately along the way we found justice by an amazing trial judge, the NJ Appellate Division and ultimately the Supreme Court of New Jersey.”
Scheffler also said that the program is not an admission of guilt.
“There is absolutely no admission of guilt because [Connor] did nothing wrong,” he said.