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Investigator: Ariel Castro pleads guilty, avoids death penalty

6:35 AM, Jul 27, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Slideshow | Ariel Castro court appearances

Video: Castro: Addiction to porn took toll on my mind

Video: Raw video: Ariel Castro pleads to 900+ counts

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  • CLEVELAND -- Ariel Castro has accepted a plea deal sparing him execution but putting him behind bars for the rest of his life.

    He has pleaded guilty to amended charges and the prosecution and defense have agreed to a recommended sentence of life in prison plus 1,000 years.

    "I am fully aware and I do consent to that [plea agreement]," Castro told the court.

    The plea deal was accepted in court during a pre-trial hearing before Judge Michael Russo. 

    The judge said before the hearing started that Castro will be sentenced at a later date.

    After avoiding eye contact and remaining silent through the prior court hearings, Castro entered the court today wearing glasses and was alert and talkative to the judge during the hearing. He stared straight ahead and maintained eye contact with Judge Russo.

    While answering questions about his understanding of the deal Castro offered details about himself to the judge. Castro made references to his "sex problems."

    He also told the judge that he had an addiction to pornography which "took a toll on his mind." 

    As part of the agreement, Castro will be labeled a sex predator.

    Judge Russo told Castro that he will be given the opportunity to allocute at his sentencing hearing and have family members speak on his behalf. 

    The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday, August 1. 

    Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight will also have the opportunity to address the court as well at that time if they choose to do so.

    Judge Russo says the women can appear in person, have someone speak on their behalf, write a letter or send a video if they choose.

    The hearing was interrupted due to clerical errors within the agreement pertaining to the numbering of charges. 

    Castro pleaded guilty to the charges but said repeatedly he disagreed with the wording.  Specifically, Castro objected to the characterization of him as violent in the description of charges.

    He also told the court that he "missed his daughter very much."  He is referring to Amanda Berry's child, fathered while she was held hostage. 

    In a previous pre-trial, Judge Russo denied Castro's request to see the girl.

    As part of the deal, Castro has agreed to turn his home over to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and Prosecutor Tim McGinty told the court the house would be demolished "and soon." 

    Castro also forfeits more than $20,000 and other property.  He also agrees not to profit from his crimes.

    Castro, who turned 53 earlier this month, faced 977 criminal counts including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder.  

    The deal called for him to plead guilty to 937 of them.

    His plea also spares his three victims -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- the trauma of testifying during a trial.

    "Overall, the evidence was overwhelming," said Craig Weintraub, one of Castro's defense attorneys. "There are no winners, even though we avoided the death penalty in this case, which was our primary goal.

    "My client understood that the last thing he wanted to do was to re-victimize these women."

    The case was slated for trial Aug. 5. Castro was initially arrested in May after the three women escaped his Seymour Avenue home where they had been held for a decade.

    Earlier this month, the three women released a "thank you" video that took the web by storm as they offered an update on their lives two months after being found alive.

    WKYC was the first to deliver the news Thursday that Castro had been offered the plea deal as well as plans already being made to tear down the Seymour Avenue home where the women were held.

    NBC News later reported the deal would take the death penalty off the table with Castro accepting a sentence of life without parole plus 1,000 years.

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