News / USA

Not Guilty Plea in Cleveland Kidnap Case as Lawyers Seek Deal

Ariel Castro, center, stands before a judge with his defense attorneys, Jaye Schlachet, left, and Craig Weintraub during Castro's arraignment on an expanded 977-count indictment, July 17, 2013, in Cleveland.
Ariel Castro, center, stands before a judge with his defense attorneys, Jaye Schlachet, left, and Craig Weintraub during Castro's arraignment on an expanded 977-count indictment, July 17, 2013, in Cleveland.
Reuters
A former Cleveland school bus driver accused of kidnapping and holding three women captive for years pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to hundreds of criminal charges, but his lawyers said they are seeking a plea agreement to avert a trial.
 
A grand jury on Friday added 648 charges to a previous indictment against Ariel Castro, bringing the total number of charges against him to 977.
 
Castro, 53, is accused of abducting the first of the women in 2002 and holding them captive until they escaped from his house on May 6 along with a six-year-old girl he fathered with one of the women.
 
During a brief court appearance, a lawyer for Castro entered the not guilty plea and the judge kept in place an $8 million bond, and an order that Castro have no contact with the three women and the child.
 
Law enforcement officials have said that the women, Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27, were kept bound in chains or rope for periods of time and that they endured starvation, beatings and repeated sexual assaults.
 
The most serious of the charges against Castro, two counts of aggravated murder under a fetal homicide law over allegations he forced Knight to miscarry, could potentially carry a death sentence if prosecutors choose to pursue it.
 
Joe Frolik, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, told reporters a committee that considers death penalty charges is still deliberating and prosecutors have reserved the right to bring a third indictment that includes a death penalty charge.
 
According to the indictment, Knight was pregnant at least three times from September 2002 to December 2003. Castro's aggravated murder charge stems from allegations that he forced her to miscarry in a fourth pregnancy from 2006 to 2007.
 
But legal experts have said that it would be difficult to prove murder without physical evidence of the miscarriage.
 
Castro has not sought to delay the start of his trial, which is scheduled for Aug. 5, but defense attorneys again said on Wednesday they are seeking a plea agreement in the case.
 
“We are preparing for that trial however with the goal in mind to try to resolve this for the fairness of the women as well as the community so everyone can put this behind them,” Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub, told reporters.
 
“Either we are going to have a plea or we are going to have a trial on Aug. 5,” he said.
 
Ian Friedman, a Cleveland lawyer who defended a teenager who opened fire at an Ohio school last year killing three people, said he would be shocked if the Castro trial begins as early as Aug. 5 because of the complexity and number of charges.
 
“Ariel Castro will never leave prison to the taste of freedom. This case is only about whether he receives life [in prison] or death,” Friedman said.
 
Castro is charged with kidnapping the three women from 2002 to 2004 and brutalizing them over the next 10 years. He is also charged with kidnapping the six-year-old girl and three counts of endangering her.
 
In Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday, Castro's lawyers waived a reading of the full indictment, which also includes 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felony assault, and one count of possessing tools such as a Ruger handgun used to aid in the crimes.
 
Judge Pamela Barker summarized the charges against Castro.  When she asked if he understood the charges, Castro replied, “yes.” Barker several times told Castro, who was wearing orange prison clothes, to raise his head and to open his eyes.
 
DNA evidence has confirmed that Castro was the father of the girl, who was born to Berry. At a court appearance in early July, Castro asked to be allowed jail visits from his daughter. A judge rejected the request immediately as “not appropriate.”

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid