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Italian court convicts five in fatal shipwreck

by COLLEEN BARRY Associated Press on July 22, 2013 10:00 AM

GROSSETO, Italy — An Italian court on Saturday convicted five employees of an Italian cruise company over the Costa Concordia shipwreck that killed 32 crew and passengers, handing down a maximum sentence of two years and 10 months reached in plea bargains.

The guilty verdicts for multiple manslaughter and negligence were the first reached in the tragic sinking of the cruise liner carrying more than 4,000 crew and passengers near the Tuscan shore in January 2012.

The ship’s captain, the only remaining defendant, was denied a plea bargain and is being tried separately.

Lawyers representing the victims complained the sentences agreed to in the plea bargain — all below three years — were inadequate for the gravity of the disaster.

“It seems like a sentence for illegal construction,” said Massimiliano Gabrielli. “It’s an embarrassment.”

Another lawyer for victims, Daniele Bocciolini, called the sentences “insufficient” and questioned the prosecutors’ hypothesis placing the lion’s share of the blame on Capt. Francesco Schettino, who faces up to 20 years if found guilty.

The five employees of Costa Crociere SpA, the cruise company, were charged for their respective roles in the nautical maneuver that put the ship in peril, evacuation and response to the emergency.

The longest sentence went to the company’s crisis coordinator, who was sentenced to two years and 10 months.

Concordia’s hotel director was sentenced to two years and six months while two bridge officers and a helmsman got sentences ranging from one year and eight months to one year and 11 months. The bridge officials and helmsman were also convicted of a charge of causing a shipwreck, in addition to multiple manslaughter and negligence.

The court’s reasoning for its decision will be released within 90 days, as is standard in Italy.

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