Trial Against Concordia Captain Opens in Italy

July 17, 2013

(10:55 a.m. EDT) -- The trial of Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino opened today, July 17, with Schettino's lawyers asking the judge for a plea bargain, CNN reports.

The request for the plea bargain, in which Schettino would plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of three years and five months in prison, came a week after the opening of the trial was delayed due because of national lawyer strike in Italy. The prosecution immediately voiced its opposition to the request, and the tribunal is expected to rule on the plea within a few days.

A similar plea bargain request was rejected in May.

Schettino was captain of Costa Concordia when it hit a rock off the shore of the small Italian island of Giglio in January 2012. The ship took on water and capsized, and 32 people died.

Schettino faces three criminal charges and a slew of civil suits. Criminally, he is charged with the involuntary manslaughter of 32 people, causing a maritime disaster and causing personal injury to 150 people who were seriously hurt in the accident.

On the civil side, 250 civil parties will be represented during the trial including Costa Crociere, which is suing the captain for causing the accident and destroying the Concordia.

The request was the opening volley in a trial that is expected to last into 2014 and could see as many as 1,000 witnesses -- many survivors of the disaster -- called to testify.

Meanwhile the ship is still on its side off the island of Giglio. Latest reports say it may not be floated off until 2014.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor