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Plea deal denied for Italy ship captain

Lawyers for Costa Concordia captain say prosecutors rejected his appeal for a plea on charges including manslaughter.

Last Modified: 14 May 2013 20:44
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Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship early [EPA]

Lawyers for the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner that ran aground off Italy's Tuscan coast in 2012, killing 32 people, say prosecutors have rejected their bid for a plea bargain.

Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before all passengers and crew were evacuated.

Lawyer Francesco Pepe said Schettino had wanted to defend himself at trial, but when the other defendants all sought plea bargains, his defence team sought one, too.

Pepe said prosecutors at the closed-door hearing Tuesday agreed to plea bargains for all except Schettino. That means Schettino might be the only defendant if a trial is ordered.

The defendants also include Roberto Ferrarini, the director of ship owner Costa Crociere's crisis unit, and Jacob Rusli Bin, the luxury liner's Indonesian helmsman, as well as three other crew members.

'Double standard'

The requests came during indictment hearings in Grosseto, the city closest to the January 2012 tragedy in which 32 people died, and a judge is only expected to rule when they wrap up in July.

"This is [a] double standard. Schettino at this point risks being the only person on trial," the captain's lawyer, Francesco Pepe, told reporters in Grosseto, Italian media reported.

Plaintiffs in the case, who are suing for compensation, protested against the plea bargains.

"It is as if the trial ends here and we have been excluded from it without a debate," said Cesare Bulgheroni, a lawyer in the group "Justice for the Concordia" which represents dozens of survivors.

Lawyer Massimiliano Gabrielli said: "These plea bargains are ridiculous, they are an escape route."

Schettino's lawyer had asked for the former captain to serve three years and four months but prosecutor Francesco Verusio said the sentencing request was "ridiculously low".

Under the plea bargain requests filed on Tuesday, the highest sentence would be two years and 10 months for the company executive Ferrarini. Manrico Giampedroni, the cabin service director, would face two years and six months in prison.

Costa Crociere, the biggest cruise ship operator in Europe, has accepted limited responsibility as the employer of all the suspects and was ordered to pay a fine of 1m euros ($1.3m) in a controversial decision by a judge in April.

The Costa Concordia crashed into the Italian island of Giglio on the night of January 13, 2012 with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board, keeling over and sparking a panicky evacuation.

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Source:
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