The lawyer for the former New York University student charged with allegedly setting fire to his sleeping classmate and filming the incident on Snapchat as he sang says the victim was intoxicated and may have been participating in the activity.
Jaime V. Castano, 20, re-appeared in court on Friday after being arraigned on first-degree assault and reckless endangerment charges in connection with the incident, which allegedly took place in an NYU dormitory on the night of Aug. 23–24, 2014.
The alleged victim told authorities she fell asleep in the room with Castano and another person, before waking up the next morning to discover burn marks on her clothing and comforter, as well as painful burns on her torso, a New York District Attorney's Office spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Castano allegedly admitted to filming the incident, which showed the alleged victim waking up to extinguish the flames as Castano sang. BuzzFeed News understands the victim later watched a Snapchat of the alleged incident.
The woman reported the incident to university officials, who expelled Castano in September after an internal investigation, but NYU did not report the incident to police until late October. Castano was eventually arrested on Jan. 19.
Castano faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of first degree assault.
His lawyer, Alyssa Gamliel, told the court on Tuesday that the unnamed victim had been drunk at the time of the incident, the NY Daily News reported.
"I do not think she knows what happened or her participation in this, nor do I think the People will be able to prove that she was not sort of participating in some of this activity," Gamliel told the judge.
She also suggested the victim's injuries worsened as a result of her failure to treat them properly, perhaps due to her "continued behavior of intoxication."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, NYU's Vice President for Public Affairs John Beckman said the university had spoken with the alleged victim about taking the matter to the police, but she initially refused. NYU now admits it should have immediately contacted the police.
"In retrospect, at least when the facts became clear, this case clearly should have been reported to the police, not withstanding the reluctance of the victim," Beckman said.
"We are conducting a full investigation as to how a different decision was made in this case and clarifying our decision-making process so that cases like this are reported to the police immediately in the future," he said.
Castano, who has not yet been indicted on the charges, is due to reappear in court on May 28.
He had been working as a real estate agent for the firm Citi Habitats, but the firm later deleted his profile from the website. Representatives from the company did not return repeated calls from BuzzFeed News to determine whether Castano was still employed there.
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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