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Costa Concordia cruise wreck captain has second plea bid rejected

Francesco Schettino, captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, talks with his lawyers during a trial in Grosseto, central Italy, Wednesday.Giampiero Sposito / Reuters

GROSSETO, Italy - Lawyers for Francesco Schettino, captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner, made a second unsuccessful attempt Wednesday to reach a plea deal in a trial over the disaster in which 32 people died.

Schettino, 52, faces charges including manslaughter and causing the loss of his ship in the accident in January 2012 off the picturesque island of Giglio and keeled onto its side.

More than 4,000 passengers and crew scrambled from the ship in a chaotic evacuation. Schettino is accused of abandoning ship before all had been rescued.

On the first day of the trial, defense lawyers said Schettino would plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of three years and five months, but prosecutors rejected the offer.

It was Schettino’s second attempt at a plea deal. A previous offer to serve three years and four months was rejected in May.

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Five other officials - four ship's officers and the crisis coordinator of the vessel's owners, Costa Cruises - were allowed to present plea bargains for more lenient sentences, with a ruling expected on July 20, Reuters reported.

Schettino's lawyers at the trial, which resumed on Wednesday in the town of Grosseto on Italy's west coast after a delay due to a lawyers' strike earlier this month, said he was not the only one to blame for the disaster.

"He has never shied away from his responsibilities. But it is only fair that he is treated justly," another defense lawyer, Francesco Pepe, told reporters outside the courthouse, according to Reuters.

"He was the captain, it is right that for certain things he should be the point of reference. But it is not right to blame him for responsibilities that he did not have," he added.

His lawyers argue that he prevented an even worse disaster by steering the 950 foot vessel into shallow waters after the impact and that he was thrown overboard due to the angle of the leaning ship.

On Thursday, defense lawyers are expected to ask the court for extra time to gather more evidence from the wreck, which still lies on a rock off Giglio where salvage experts are attempting to move it.

Praxilla Trabattoni is an NBC News contributor and legal expert. Alastair Jamieson reported from London.