After a nineteen month long trial, the three judges presiding over the Costa Concordia trial sentenced Captain Francisco Schettino to sixteen (16) years in jail for manslaughter, causing the disaster and abandoning ship. The sentence was broken down as follows; ten (10) years for multiple counts of manslaughter, five (5) years for causing the shipwreck, and one (1) year for abandoning ship. Schettino was also sentenced to one month for making false communications to maritime authorities after the shipwreck.

During closing arguments, breaking down in tears, Schettino demonstrated little concern for the consequences of his recklessness other than feeling sorry for himself, saying that three years ago "I died along with the 32 others." Schettino’s defense lawyer said: "In these three years, Schettino has suffered the same as a 30-year sentence." His legal counsel argued that he was made a scapegoat by Francesco Schettinothe cruise line Carnival-Corporation-owned Costa Cruises.

The prosecutor described Schettino as an "idiot" and a "coward."

Costa paid a relatively small fine of 1.1 million dollars to avoid a criminal trial.

The prosecution sought 26 years in jail for Schettino. The defense requested a maximum of 5 years. The judges essentially split the difference with 16 years. Schettino is entitled to an automatic appeal of the sentence and is likely not to serve time in jail during the appeal.

The stock of Costa’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, is up today.

You can read our first article about the disaster here: Passengers Panic As Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Begins to Sink.

The question which I keep asking myself is what does the brother and parents of Costa crew member Russel Rebello think of the verdict

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Photo Credit: Reuters

Today, the body of Costa crew member Russel Rebello was found in the salvaged wreck of the Costa Concordia. His remains were the last to be removed from the ill-fated cruise ship. 

Mr. Rebello was known to his fellow crew members as a warm, friendly and always-smiling young man. He was last seen going back into the sinking ship to rescue passengers.

Rusel RebelloTragedies like the Costa Concordia define a person. When disaster strikes, will the person shirk their responsibilities and run like a coward? Or will they rise to the occasion and help others? 

Maritime lore and tradition say that the captain always goes down with the ship. That’s not exactly true, but the saying reinforces the notion that the captain must be the last person on the ship. He is required by maritime regulations to be aboard the ship in order to supervise the orderly evacuation of all aboard, before he exits.

Francisco Schettino fled the Concordia like a scared rat. He does not deserve even to be called a captain.

When the Concordia hit the rocks and eventually slipped into the sea, it was Mr. Rebello who acted as the true master of the vessel. He put the safety and well being of the guests before himself.  He honored the maritime tradition of a captain staying on the ship and placing himself in harm’s way to help others.

 

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Disgraced Costa captain Francesco Schettino is back in the news after a professor at the University of Rome invited him to lecture to a class of graduate students studying forensic science.

A number of news sources quote Schettino saying: "I was called in because I am an expert. I had to illustrate the management of panic control."  He later said: "I have sailed the seas of the world and I know what to behave and how to react."

Of course it was Schettino, now known as "captain coward", who killed 32 passengers and crew members because he was frozen with panic after he ran the cruise ship into the rocks off of Giglio. He fled the scene of the disaster he caused, by hopping Schettino the Deadly Buffoonin a lifeboat and abandoning his responsibilities. 

When I think that this debacle couldn’t get any more absurd, this deadly buffoon re-emerges to pour salt in the wounds of the victims’ grieving families. 

Last month, the tan, slick-haired captain was photographed jetting around the holiday island of Ischia, surrounded by a "gaggle of glamorous women" while celebrating signing a book deal.

Meanwhile, a newspaper reports today that a human skull was found in the remains of the Concordia cruise ship, which has been towed to  the port town of Genoa for scrapping.

 

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Image credit: National Post

Yesterday morning, CNN’s New Day aired a short program about Captain Schettino’s testimony at his criminal trial. He claims that he is not to blame for the deadly Concordia disaster.    

CNN’s Erin McLaughlin reports on the story.

I was interviewed briefly in the program.

You can read about the story here.

You can also read about my thoughts about Captain Schettino’s testimony here.  

 

 

Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker - Cruise LawIn yesterday’s criminal trial against Captain Schettino, the disgraced captain of the doomed Costa Concordia testified that the disaster was not his fault, but was due to the error of the helmsman who failed to promptly follow his orders to turn the cruise ship away from the rocks.

Schettino testified that when he arrived in the bridge, he told the officer at the helm to turn the rudder to the left, which would have pulled the stern to the right and possibly avoided the rocks. But there was a delay of around 12 to 13 seconds, and the helmsman turned the rudder to the right.

The problem with Schettino’s defense is that it was Captain Schettino who decided to divert the cruise ship from its scheduled route and head the ship directly toward Giglio in the first place.  The cruise ship then sailed four miles off course heading dangerously close to the rocky island.  

Sailing a ship off course like this, at high speed, in the night is ill conceived. Its not much different than altering the scheduled course of a 747 aircraft and flying it toward a mountain to show off. It’s hardly a defense to Captain Schettinothe captain’s malfeasance by returning to the cockpit at the last second and telling a subordinate officer to try and make a last ditch emergency maneuver to avoid crashing the plane. Thar’s just additional evidence of the captain’s recklessness.

Captain Schettino also complained that Costa should shoulder some of the blame because the Costa nautical maps did not accurately depict the rocky shoals which the Concordia struck.  I say hogwash to that, because the cruise ship should not have been anywhere near Giglio. The granite rocks around Giglio are part of the geological structure of the earth and have existed for over a million years. If the maps on the ship are not perfect and miss a rock or two, Schettino nonetheless planned to head the ship directly on what essentially was a collision course with the island of Giglio.

The 32 deaths are due in large part due to the captain’s delay in ordering the evacuation of the passengers and crew. The helmsman had nothing to do with that. My opinion is that the Italian court will find Schettino guilty of all counts: causing the shipwreck, manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Schettino’s game of blaming everyone except himself must be particularly painful to the families of the Captan Schettino - Costa Concordia32 dead passengers and crew who are trying to heal from the horror of losing their loved ones on Captain Schettino’s ship. It also reveals a lack of remorse and a continuing arrogance which hopefully the court will consider in sentencing the cowardly captain.

CNN interviewed me about Schettino’s testimony this morning on its program "New Day." The images are from the CNN program this morning.

The big news this weekend in the on-again off-again Costa Concordia trial was the announcement that five Costa employees were sentenced to jail time for manslaughter in the death of 32 Concordia cruise passengers and crew members.

But you will see no photographs of the five men in court in handcuffs because there will be no actual jail time to be served, according to most news accounts. They will be serving suspended sentences. There appears to be no fines levied against the men in question:

Helmsman Jacob Rusli Bin:

Captain Schettino Costa ConcordaHotel Director Manrico Giampedroni:

Bridge Officer Ciro Ambrosio:

Crisis Coordinator Roberto Ferrarini; and 

Bridge Officer Silvia Coronica.

The bridge officers and the helmsman were sentenced to between 20 and 23 months in prison, while the hotel director received a two-year sentence, The crisis coordinator received a 34-month sentence.

Lawyers for the victims expressed their disgust with the sentences:

"The plea bargains are unacceptable, they shouldn’t have been proposed or accepted. These sentences are ridiculous in the face of 32 dead,’ said Gabriele dalle Luche in the Daily Mail, who represents a group of Russian passengers.

The BBC reports that Massimiliano Gabrielli, lawyer for the group Justice for Concordia, compared the "shameful" short length of the sentences to the seven years given to Emilio Fede, who was convicted of procuring prostitutes for former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The plea bargains leave disgraced cruise ship captain Schettino as the sole defendant. 

Many have criticized the legal proceeding, saying that Costa itself should also be on trial.  The cruise line previously agreed to a fine of $1.3 million to avoid all criminal charges. 

Domnica Cemortan Costa ConcordiaAs soon as the trial began, it was interrupted by a national strike by Italian lawyers. The trial has been again delayed after the lawyers for Schettino requested an opportunity to conduct tests on the cruise ship which remains capsized in the port of Giglio.

The trial itself has been a bizarre spectacle.  It is taking place in a large theater which may be an appropriate venue for such drama.

Captain Schettino has appeared in his sporty blue coat and sunglasses.  His alleged paramour, Moldovan dancer and former Costa hostess Domnica Cemortan, made an appearance to support Schettino. She was wearing attire suitable to a cocktail party and disrespectful to the dead passengers and crew members, while posing for the cameras. Her appearance added to the scandalous nature of the proceedings, given the fact that she is suing Costa for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to newspapers, "for the damage to her reputation after it became known that Mr Schettino, who is married with young children, had wined and dined her aboard the Concordia." 

The soap opera is expected to resume in September.

 

Phorto Credits:

Schettino: The Independent

Ms.Cemortan: news.au

The Costa Concordia disaster has created some of the weirdest stories I have ever heard of in the field of maritime law. The notion of a playboy captain dining with a young blonde former ship dancer while the cruise ship heads towards disaster would be an improbable movie script if the story were not so real.

Captain Schettino is, of course, the central actor in this absurd drama. “Captain Coward,” as the press labeled him, is heading to trial later this year for manslaughter and abandoning ship. But that did not stop him from filing a lawsuit last year against Costa Crociere alleging that the cruise line wrongfully fired him. A 600 million dollar cruise ship ruined and many passengers and crew dead under his watch, but Master Schettino becomes Plaintiff Schettino looking for compensation himself.

Domnica Cemortan - Costa ConcordiaHow does a disgraced captain who abandoned ship have the chutzpah to seek money damages after causing such death and destruction?

Schettino has a boatload of excuses. Remember that he claims that he “slipped and fell into a lifeboat.” I am surprised that he didn’t hire a personal injury lawyer to sue the cruise ship company for that too.

And now the Schettino-Costa Concordia story gets even weirder.

According to the Telegraph, Schettino’s alleged girlfriend on the ship, Domnica Cemortan, has announced that she too is suing Costa as well as Schettino himself.

You will recall that Ms. Cemortan was the captain’s dinner companion on the night of the disaster who somehow ended up on the bridge when all hell was breaking loose. She claims that Costa failed to re-hire her and she lost income as a result. She also claims that Costa and Schettino failed to protect her image and reputation. She is threatening to sue the Italian newspapers which labeled her as Schettino’s paramour and portrayed her in an endless series of bikini photos.

Isn’t this the same person who reportedly professed her love for the captain shortly after the disaster? Did Ms. Cemortan really expect that this coward of a captain, who abandoned his ship and thousands of his passengers and crew members, would somehow protect her honor?

I suppose that it’s expected to have hard feelings when your dinner date kills 32 passengers and crew members, abandons ship, and doesn’t call you the next morning. 

 

Photo Credit: genova.ogginotizie.it

Miami news station WSVN – 7 aired an interesting interview with Francesco Schettino last night and asked: Is he a coward who caused 32 people to die the night his ship the Costa Concordia capsized? Or is he is a professional who did all that he could to avert disaster due to mistakes by his crew? 

An Italian judge is in the process of considering evidence whether criminal charges should be filed against him and other Costa employees. 

Schettino blames his bridge team for navigating off-course towards the island and then failing to properly conduct the course change he ordered. He calls the incident an accident and questions why the prosecutors are trying to turn the incident into a crime.

The helmsman, from Indonesia, left the jurisdiction and will not return to Italy for trial if one is ordered.

Channel 7’s investigation does not address the events which followed the cruise ship striking the rocks.

WSVN-TV –

Giglio Costa ConcordiaA court in Italy is proceeding with preliminary hearings to consider evidence whether Captain Francesco Schettino will face trial for criminal charges for his involvement in the Costa Concordia disaster. 

Schettino, labelled "Captain Calamity" in the press, appeared at the proceedings yesterday, faces a trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. 

The Italian prosecutors requested the indictment of four crew members in the case, including the ship’s helmsman, as well as Costa employee Roberto Ferrarini, the head of Costa Crociere’s "crisis unit" who is accused of delaying the evacuation of the cruise ships.

The island of Giglio, which is the site of the stricken vessel, has requested permission to sue Captain Schettino, alleging that the island’s image as a beautiful tourist spot has been irreparably damaged by the disaster. The island’s lawyers are seeking damages of 80 million euros.

The Costa Concordia remains in the water at the entrance to the island’s harbor.  Image courtesy of Giglio News.

Costa Concordia Cruise ShipNewspapers in Europe are reporting on the contents of the legal submissions made by the Italian prosecutors who have been collecting evidence regarding the Costa Concordia disaster.

Sky News has an interesting video which you can watch here

You can hear about 5 year old Dayana Arlotti who drown along with her father after they were denied seats on a lifeboat and then directed to the other side of the cruise ship.

Crew member Giuseppe Girolamo drowned after he gave up his place on a lifeboat for another person who survived the ordeal.

Prosecutors are seeking criminal trials against Captain Schettino (for manslaughter and abandoning ship) as well as other Costa employees.