Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect Ariel Castro Indicted On 329 Counts
Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man accused of holding three women prisoner for a decade, has been indicated on 329 counts, and there are likely more to come:
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County grand jury returned a 329-count indictment this afternoon against Ariel Castro, charging the 52-year-old Cleveland man with the kidnapping and rape of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
Two count of the indictment charged Castro with aggravated murder for “purposely and with prior calculation and design causing the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy,” said County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. The counts refer to the same incident, but involve different sections of Ohio criminal code, allowing prosecutors to pursue different legal theories.
The indictments cover only the period from August of 2002, when the first of the three women discovered in his Seymour Avenue house disappeared, until February of 2007. The women were held as prisoners for a decade.
Castro also was indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.
He will be arraigned on those charges next week, and a trial judge will be assigned at that time, McGinty said.
“Today’s indictments represent a first major step in the criminal justice process,” said McGinty. “Our investigation continues, and we will present our findings to the grand jury.”
“When the indictment process is complete, the County Prosecutor’s Capital Review Committee will consider whether this case is appropriate to attach a death penalty specification,” McGinty said.
Castro’s attorney said he had not yet seen a copy of the 142-page indictment, but was aware that the document contained charges against his client of aggravated murder and others that covered a “portion of the dates the women were held in captivity.”
“Although our client was charged with aggravated murder for the death of a fetus, we are pleased that Mr. McGinty has not rushed to a decision and did not seek a death specification that would have made this a death penalty case,” said defense lawyer Craig Weintraub.
“It would be unprecedented to pursue the death penalty for the alleged death of a fetus, without the death of the mother. We are hopeful that the prosecutor’s office and the public understand and agree that the death penalty should never be used as leverage to attempt to obtain a plea bargain,” Weintraub said.
Castro would be the first person in Ohio for whom the death penalty is sought for the murder of a fetus, and based on some of the legal analysis, it would appear that there are some significant legal questions about the statute that makes such a murder death penalty eligible. So, while there may be political pressure on McGinty to seek the death penalty here, it’s not clear that he can make it stick in the end. More broadly, though, it seems clear that there will be additional charges coming against Castro given that the current indictment only covers a period ending six years before the women were finally freed. In that case, the prosecution may want to put the death penalty on the table as a means of forcing plea negotiations because, quite honestly, Castro clearly doesn’t have much of a factual defense to the other underlying charges.