GROSSETO, ITALY —
An Italian court convicted the former captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner on Wednesday for his role in the 2012 shipwreck that killed 32 people and sentenced him to 16 years in prison.
Francesco Schettino was commanding the vessel, a floating hotel as long as three football pitches, when it came too close to shore and hit rocks off the Tuscan holiday island of Giglio, tearing a hole in its side and setting off a chaotic night evacuation of more than 4,000 passengers and crew.
Schettino, 54, was charged with multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship in one of the highest-profile shipping disasters in recent years.
However, it is far from certain whether he will actually go to jail before the end of Italy's long appeals process, which can take years.
Investigators severely criticized Schettino's handling of the disaster.
Admitted some responsibility
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 26 years in prison for Schettino, who had admitted some responsibility as captain of the ship but denies blame for deaths that occurred during the evacuation.
He was left alone on the dock to answer for the disaster after the ship's owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp paid a 1 million euro ($1.13 million) fine to settle and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.
The Costa Concordia wreck was one of the highest-profile shipping disasters of recent years, leaving the massive hulk abandoned on its side for two-and-a-half years before it was towed away in the most expensive maritime wreck recovery in history.
Schettino's defense team had argued he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the ship close to the island as it sank.
Schettino, a distinctive figure with his sharp suits and pomaded hair, was a constant presence throughout the trial in a makeshift courtroom set up in a theater in Grosseto.