Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello, who was accused of dropping 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand from a cruise ship window, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide.
The grandfather, who protested his innocence over the toddler’s plunge from the deck of the Freedom of the Seas, is to admit to causing her death only days after telling a court that he wanted a trial.
In a statement to Daily Mail, the civil attorney representing the Wiegand family confirmed Sam’s u-turn.
“This decision was an incredibly difficult one for Sam and the family but because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts,” Michael Winkleman said.
“It was decided the plea deal is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe and fighting for cruise passenger safety by raising awareness about the need for all common carriers to adhere to window fall prevention laws designed to protect children from falling from windows.”
Sam has also lodged his plea with the court in Puerto Rico, according to reports.
Under the Puerto Rican criminal code, negligent homicide can be punished with a 3-year jail sentence but prosecutors might recommend a period of probation in Indiana.
“The Puerto Rico Department of Justice has diligently prosecuted the charges against Salvatore Anello in order to bring justice to Chloe’s unfortunate death,” said Dennise N. Longo Quinones, Puerto Rico’s Attorney General.
“The defendant filed a motion yesterday afternoon expressing his intent to plead guilty and asking for a hearing date where the court may accept his change of plea.
“Anello’s decision to so proceed is wholly within his discretion and will become binding only upon his appearing before the court to voluntarily plead guilty.”
But sources close to the family said the guilty plea won’t change their belief that the cruise ship is responsible for the toddler’s death.
The devastated parents are also suing the cruise ship operator, arguing there were notices or signs to warn that the grandfather that the ‘wall of glass’ he held 18-month-old girl up against had windows that could be opened.
When Sam lifted Chloe up to let her bang on the glass, she tumbled overboard and passed away.
41-year-old Alan and his wife, 37-year-old Kimberly, could claim ‘unlimited’ damages for mental suffering and pain if their suit succeeds.
But they say that their motivation is to force Royal Caribbean to enforce safer windows so their daughter’s case will never occur to other children.
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