Ariel Castro pleads not guilty

Posted at 4:59 PM, Jun 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-12 18:59:50-04

By Peggy Sinkovich

Cleveland (WJW) — With his head hung low, Ariel Castro on Wednesday entered a not guilty plea to a 329-count indictment.

His attorney Craig Weintraub said this is the first step in a long process.

Castro’s bond was continued at $8 million and a pretrial hearing has been set for June 19 in Judge Michael Russo’s courtroom.

Castro did not speak in the courtroom and his attorneys declined to comment on his mental state or if he has had any visitors.

Weintraub also said he believes the judge will soon issue a gag order on the case. He says with all the pretrial publicity it will be difficult to get a fair trial.

He also said he has not seen forensic data yet to support an aggravated murder charge and hinted at a possible plea deal with prosecutors, saying there are “certain” allegations in the indictment they cannot dispute.

He would not name the specific allegations.

“Mr. Castro currently faces hundreds of years in prison with the current charges, and it is our hope that we can continue to work toward a resolution to avoid having an unnecessary trial, about aggravated murder and the death penalty,” said Weintraub.

Prosecutor Tim McGinty was in the courtroom but did not speak to reporters.

Castro is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and holding them hostage for about a decade.

After his arraignment, the survivors released a statement that said, “We understand the legal process needs to run its course. That said, days like today are not easy. We are hopeful for a just and prompt resolution. We have great faith in the prosecutor’s office and the court.”

Castro’s charges include aggravated murder (by causing Michelle Knight to miscarry), 139 counts of rape and 177 counts of kidnapping.
The FBI searches Ariel Castro’s Seymour Avenue property on June 12, 2013.

The FBI searches Ariel Castro’s Seymour Avenue property on June 12, 2013.

He’s also accused of gross sexual imposition and felonious assault.

The charges only cover the years from when Michelle Knight was kidnapped nearly 11 years ago until 2007, so more charges are likely.

Investigators were back at Castro’s Seymour Avenue home this week, including on Wednesday, continuing to piece together their case against him.

The prosecutor’s office is still deciding whether to make this a death penalty case.

Story submitted by WJW