Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino Makes Tearful Plea at Trial

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GROSSETO, Italy — The cruise ship captain accused of causing the deaths of 32 passengers and crew aboard the Costa Concordia made a tearful plea to judges Wednesday, saying he had lived through a “meatshredding media frenzy” since the disaster.

Francesco Schettino choked up as he asked for leniency moments before judges retired to consider their verdict in his 19-month trial.

The 54-year-old is accused of causing the Jan. 13, 2012 disaster near the Italian island of Giglio, manslaughter and abandoning ship before all 4,200 aboard were evacuated.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that his failure to promptly order an evacuation of the ship was the sole reason 32 people died. Instead, it was "each man for himself," prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi said.

Co-prosecutor Stefano Pizza described the defendant's conduct as "reprehensible." He urged for convictions on all counts and reiterated the prosecutors' request for a 26-year prison term.

Schettino's defense has argued equipment problems complicated evacuation, and that he wanted to steer the Concordia closer to port.

His lawyers seek acquittal for manslaughter and abandoning ship. Schettino has said the reef wasn't on his nautical charts.

A verdict could come later Wednesday. An update on the progress of the judges’ deliberation was expected at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET).

Francesco Schettino attends his trial in Grosseto, Italy, on Wednesday.Gregorio Borgia / AP


- Chapman Bell and Alastair Jamieson

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Alastair Jamieson reported from London.