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

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora