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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.