Concordia captain Schettino to stand trial

Could face 20 years in prison if found guilty

Concordia captain Schettino to stand trial

(By Kate Carlisle) Grosseto, May 22 - A preliminary hearings judge in the Tuscan city of Grosseto on Wednesday said that Francesco Schettino, the captain of the Costa Concordia, will go to trial over the 2012 cruise ship disaster that cost 32 people their lives. Schettino will be tried for dereliction of duty and multiple manslaughter starting July 9 and if found guilty, could face 20 years in prison. He is expected to appeal if found guilty. In April, the judge agreed to admit Costa Cruises, the owner of the wrecked cruise liner, as a civil plaintiff in criminal proceedings, all the shipwreck survivors, a number of Italian ministries, local governments and that of the island of Giglio. The former cruise ship captain was manning the Costa Concordia when it hit a rock on January 13, 2012, before partially capsizing off the island of Giglio. Five board members of Costa Crociere have also been placed under investigation as part of a new and separate probe related to the January accident for possible collusion in the crimes of dereliction of duty and manslaughter. Last Friday, Schettino told a court that his actions saved the lives of more than 4,000 people and requested a new investigation. "My years of experience surely led to the evacuation of over 4,000 people. Thus is was not the hand of the good Lord or a miracle," said Francesco Schettino. Dubbed "Captain Coward" by the media for allegedly abandoning ship without overseeing the evacuation, Schettino claims his image and actions have been distorted by investigators and called on judges for a new probe. However, last July Schettino apologised for being "distracted" on the night of Italy's worst maritime disaster since World War II. "I have to apologise to everyone because at that time, during the approach to Giglio, one of my officers was at the command and I was distracted, so I have those 32 deaths on my conscience," he told Mediaset television. The prosecutor handling the case said the day after the interview that Schettino told "embarrassing lies" when giving his account of his handling of the ship. Schettino said in the interview that he was not in command of the liner when it struck a rock while sailing close to Giglio to 'salute' local residents. He claimed that he saved lives by guiding the ship to shallower waters instead of immediately ordering an evacuation. "He knows the truth very well because the judicial papers deposited by the preliminary hearing judge are in his hands too," Grosseto Chief Prosecutor Francesco Verusio told Turin daily La Stampa. "Witness reports and recordings on what happened on the bridge show the responsibility he had. He knows it all. "After his arrest he admitted he'd made a blunder and now he wants to depict himself as the perfect commander who isn't sorry repent anything. It's unbelievable," Verusio said. Schettino's defense lawyers claim he is a "scapegoat" who "suffered a work accident". An expert witness testifying at preliminary hearings last October said that Schettino had plenty of time and room to avoid gashing the cruise liner on the rock reef, but failed to react. "There was plenty of space, a huge amount of water and time to approach and take (the ship) out of danger," testified Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone. Preliminary hearings judge Pietro Molino said on Wednesday that the prosecution had provided "more than sufficient evidence" to indict Schettino whose conduct had been "grossly negligent".

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