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In the first round of criminal actions connected to the Costa Concordia disaster last year, five employees of the Costa Crociere SpA cruise line have pleaded guilty in an Italian court to multiple manslaughter and negligence. The defendants received sentences of varying length, none shorter than three years.

More than 4,000 people were aboard the Costa Concordia when it struck a rock formation and capsized off the coast of Italy in January 2012. Thirty-two people died, among them two Americans. Prosecutors claim the captain had ordered a “sail by” that took the ship too close to the shore.

Attorneys for the victims and survivors expressed disapopointment with the sentences. They also expressed misgivings about the prosecutors’ plan to lay most of the blame at the feet of the ship’s captain. The captain was denied a plea deal; his trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship has been continued until September.

The sentences of the five defendants varied based on their roles on the ship and in the disaster. Costa Crociere’s crisis coordinator was not on the ship during the calamity but received the longest sentence — two years and 10 months — because, prosecutors said, he had downplayed the seriousness of the emergency and, so, kept help from arriving as quickly as was necessary.

The hotel director received a sentence of two years and six months for his role in the chaotic evacuation.

Two bridge officials and a helmsman pleaded guilty to the additional charge of causing a shipwreck. Prosecutors said they were responsible for the maneuver that resulted in the accident. They received sentences between one year and eight months and one year and 11 months.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, “Five Convicted for Costa Concordia Shipwreck,” Colleen Barry and Francesco Sportelli, July 22, 2013

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