NYU Student Set Classmate on Fire as She Slept in Dorm Room: Police

A New York University student allegedly set a classmate on fire as she slept in a bed in his dorm room last summer, and the college didn't tell police for two months, prosecutors said.

Jaime Castano was charged Tuesday with assault and reckless endangerment in connection with the August fire. Authorities say he allegedly recorded the classmate desperately trying to put out the flames on his cellphone, and that NYU failed to report the allegations to police until mid-October. 

The university said it erred it not reporting the accusations immediately. 

According to a criminal complaint, the girl fell asleep on Castano's bed at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 23, and the next day, she had burns on her torso and clothes, and there were holes and burns on the comforter. Castano told her he had set fire to the comforter, according to the criminal complaint.

He took a cellphone video of the 19-year-old classmate with flames on her clothing while he sang, and she woke up and tried to put out the fire, prosecutors said.

NYU said Wednesday the delay in reporting the incident to authorities stemmed from its practice to give deference to a victim's wishes to involve police. The woman did not want to go to police until recently, according to university spokesman John Beckman.

"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.

Castano was expelled in September after the university pursued a disciplinary case. The 20-year-old Castano was ordered held on $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash bail after Tuesday's court appearance. His lawyer didn't return a call seeking comment.

"The university, from the outset, took this case very seriously," Beckman said in a statement, adding, "From the very beginning, the university spoke with the victim about involving the police."

Beckman said the university is investigating the handling of the incident and "clarifying" the decision-making process "so that cases like this are reported to the police immediately in the future."

New York University has more than 40,000 students, with tuition of about $60,000 per year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us