Costa Concordia captain seeks plea bargain; lawyer not confident

The captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner was in court Wednesday trying to reach a plea bargain -- an effort even his lawyer doubted would work.

It's "a formality," the captain's lawyer said, according to an Associated Press report. "The prosecution will tell us 'no.' "


Francesco Schettino piloted the Costa Concordia onto rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012. There were 4,000 passengers aboard the vessel; 32 passengers and crew were killed. In May, as the Los Angeles Times reported, Schettino was ordered to stand trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

Five other ship officers who were on the bridge at the time of the shipwreck, including the helmsman, worked out plea deals. The Associated Press reports that a judge is expected to rule Saturday on their requests for lenient sentences. The longest requested prison term is about two years.

Schettino, however, could face as much as 20 years in prison. The deal he was seeking Wednesday was for three years and five months in exchange for a guilty plea. A previous plea bargain request by Schettino was turned down. The trial began on July 9 but was delayed due to a lawyers strike in Italy.

Schettino appeared confident when he entered court Wednesday morning in Grosseto, Italy, according to the Telegraph of London. He smiled as he talked on a cellphone. Among those in court, the British newspaper reported, was Domnica Cemortan, the woman Schettino invited on to the bridge the day the shipwreck occurred.

Schettino is accused of being distracted by the presence of Cemortan at the moment the ship crashed into a jagged reef off the island, then leaving the vessel before passengers had all been evacuated. Cemortan is expected to be called to testify.

Chief investigating magistrate Francesco Verusio of Grosseto said at the time of the crash that the captain had intentionally taken the nearly 1,000-foot, 126,000-ton vessel on "a route that it shouldn't have," bringing the ship too close to the rocks.

Schettino says he is a scapegoat. He has maintained that he is innocent, saying that incorrect navigational charts are to blame and that he took the ship into shallower waters to ease evacuation.

With the granting of previous plea bargains, Schettino is the only person on trial for now.

The operator of the Costa Concordia managed to avoid criminal proceedings in the deadly shipwreck. In April, Costa Crociere, a division of Miami-based Carnival Corp., agreed to pay a $1.3-million fine to avoid a possible criminal trial.