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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid