Concordia captain's lawyers request plea deal

Wednesday 17 July 2013 22.11
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Francesco Schettino speaks to a policeman as he takes his place for his trial in Grosseto
Francesco Schettino speaks to a policeman as he takes his place for his trial in Grosseto
Salvagers hope to raise the Costa Concordia in September
Salvagers hope to raise the Costa Concordia in September

Lawyers for Francesco Schettino, captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner, again requested a plea deal in a trial over the disaster in which 32 people died, his defence said today.

Mr Schettino faces charges including manslaughter and causing the loss of his ship in the accident in January 2012.

The huge liner struck a rock off the picturesque island of Giglio and keeled onto its side, setting off a chaotic night evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

Defence lawyer Donato Laino told reporters Mr Schettino would offer to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of three years and five months, which would allow the complex trial to be resolved more quickly.

A previous offer to serve three years and four months was rejected in May.

Prosecutor Franco Verusia told journalists outside the court the proposed plea bargain was unacceptable.

"We expressed very clearly in the court that the plea bargain proposed by Mr Schettino in regard to the crime is absolutely inadequate," he said. 

Five other officials - four ship's officers and the crisis coordinator of the vessel's owners, Costa Cruises - were allowed to present plea bargains for more lenient sentences, with a ruling expected on 20 July.

Mr Schettino's lawyers at the trial, which resumed today in the town of Grosseto on Italy's west coast after a delay due to a lawyers' strike earlier this month, said he was not the only one to blame for the disaster.

Mr Schettino, 52, is accused of abandoning ship before all crew and passengers had been rescued.

His lawyers argue that he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the 290m vessel into shallow waters after the impact and that he was thrown overboard due to the angle of the leaning ship.

The trial began on 9 July but was immediately suspended because lawyers involved were taking part in a nationwide strike against measures to streamline civil trials.

Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, agreed to pay a €1m fine to settle potential criminal charges in April.

That means that for now Mr Schettino is the only person facing trial.