Ariel Castro’s rambling 20-minute statement in court Thursday, in which he repeatedly said, “I am not a monster,” showed signs of a criminal sociopath whose narcissism doesn’t allow him to express remorse, experts say.
Sure, Castro apologized to the three Cleveland women he kidnapped, raped and held captive for a decade, but he spent most of his statement denying personal responsibility.
In opening remarks, Castro’s defense attorney Craig Weintraub said his client suffered from “significant undiagnosed mental illness” that did not rise to the legal definition of insanity.
That may be true, but Dr. Mark Levy, a forensic psychiatrist in California who frequently testifies at criminal trials, told NBC News Thursday that Castro is showing classic signs of sociopathic behavior.
Levy has not examined Castro and emphasized he is not attempting to diagnose him. He only spoke about Castro's statement at the request of NBC News.
“It’s a rambling denial of responsibility even though he takes responsibility” Levy said. “It’s a failure to appreciate the breadth and the depth of his crimes. It’s a lot of rationalizing, including the convenient 'I'm addicted to porn.'”
Castro pleaded guilty to 937 out of 977 counts against him, including two counts of aggravated murder in the death of an unborn child, stemming from the years of abuse and imprisonment of the women he kidnapped and held in his Seymour Avenue house.
On Thursday he was formally sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years.
At the sentencing, Castro tried to portray himself as a normal guy who has held jobs, was a musician, a family man who raised four kids and is religious. He blames “sex acts” against him as a child for an addiction to pornography, which then supposedly led to the kidnapping and sexual abuse of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.
"What I'm trying to get at is these people are trying to paint me as a monster, and I'm not a monster," Castro said. "I'm sick. My sexual problems have been so bad on my mind.… I'm compulsive!”
And in another statement: “I am not a violent person. I simply kept them there without them being able to leave,” Castro said.
“The whole thing is a contradiction,” Levy said. “Monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder.
"He seems very concerned about his image. His whole identity is under attack, and part of his way of defending himself is to deny the most horrific acts, to disassociate himself from them."
Castro even tries to distance himself from long-ago domestic abuse against his former wife. His son spoke out about the abuse his mother suffered and said his father deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The beatings, Castro claimed, were his former wife’s fault because “she wouldn’t quiet down. The situation would escalate until the point where she would put her hands on me, and that's how I reacted, by putting my hands on her.”
And he appears to blame Berry for getting into his car while saying he doesn’t blame her.
“Amanda, she got into my vehicle without even knowing who I was,” Castro said. “I don’t blame you.”
“Many, many people in prison have the diagnoses of antisocial personality. They’re people who have limited, if any conscience and are very narcissistic," noted Levy. “They see the world through their own eyes and have an exploitive view toward interpersonal behavior.
“The kinds of statements he’s making are antisocial. He won’t take ownership. He’s paying lip service to an apology. Everything is self-serving and self-gratifying,” Levy said.
At one point, he even refers to the women he lived with for a decade, fathering a child with one, as “the victims” -- another sign he is “disassociating himself” from the crimes, according to Levy.
As for the sex addiction, neither Levy nor Robert Weiss, who treats addicts at his Sexual Recovery Institute in California, is buying it.
“He’s clearly using sex addiction as a way to make his horrendous behavior look better,” Weiss said. “Without remorse, without empathy, without a consistent pattern of compulsive and addictive behavior that involved different settings over time, not just these particular individuals, I don’t see a sex addict. I just see a psychopath and a sex offender.”