Grosseto

Concordia captain seeks plea bargain again

Schettino's offer rejected by prosecutors in May

Concordia captain seeks plea bargain again

(By Kate Carlisle) Grosseto, July 17 - The defense team for the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship Francesco Schettino, who is on trial for manslaughter, asked the court to accept a plea bargain on Wednesday for a jail term of three years, five months. State prosecutors in May rejected the same offer. Schettino, who was in the theatre in the Tuscan city of Grosseto where the hearing is being held, could face 20 years in prison if he is found guilty of charges including dereliction of duty and multiple manslaughter. The criminal trial of Schettino started in earnest on Wednesday after the first hearing of the trial was quickly adjourned last week because of a nationwide lawyers' strike over plans to streamline civil proceedings. The disgraced ex-captain was at the helm when the Concordia hit a rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio while sailing close to the shore on January 13, 2012. In addition to the 32 people who lost their lives, hundreds were injured and the disaster caused massive economic damage for Costa Cruises and the residents of Giglio, which is a popular tourist destination. The semi-submerged wreck of the Concordia has not yet been removed. 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 recently called on judges for a new probe. He said that by guiding the Concordia close to shore as it was taking on water, he stopped it sinking outright and saved the lives of more than 4,000 people. The first real hearing focused on which parties would be admitted as civil plaintiffs in the trial and other procedural matters. Among the people attending Wednesday's hearing was Domnica Cemortan, a Moldavian dancer on the deck of the Concordia cruise ship on the night of Italy's worst maritime disaster since World War II. The dancer defended Schettino in a television interview but said that reports she was romantically involved with him, since her suitcase was found in his room, were not true. Cemortan sat in the area reserved for civil plaintiffs in the case. Schettino is the only person standing criminal trial over the disaster. State prosecutors in May accepted the pleas of five other officials, including four ship's officers and the crisis coordinator of the vessel's owners, Costa Cruises. Costa agreed to pay a one-million-euro fine to settle potential criminal charges in April. The prosecutor said that the hearing would end soon and certainly with a guilty verdict. "That Schettino is guilty, there is no doubt. The only thing left to determine is how long his sentence will be," prosecutor Francesco Verusio said.

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