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Castro pleads not guilty to 977 charges

18 July 2013, 09:07

Washington - The man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive for around a decade in Cleveland, Ohio, was arraigned Wednesday on a new 977-count indictment that covers the entire period the women were held.

Ariel Castro, 52, pleaded not guilty to the indictment, which includes all the charges from a previous 329-count indictment.

Judge Pamela Barker ordered Castro to raise his head and open his eyes during his appearance in court. The judge said she wanted to make sure he understood the reading of his rights.

Castro, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, complied, but then again dropped his head, prompting Barker to repeat her order. When he lifted his head, he again closed his eyes and Barker told him to open them and look her in the eye.

"I'm trying," Castro said.

The new indictment includes 512 counts of kidnapping and 446 counts of rape. Other charges include aggravated murder, gross sexual imposition, felonious assault and child endangerment.

Barker set bail at $8m and said Castro may not have any contact with the victims, one of whom is his daughter.

The victims are Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Berry's 6-year-old daughter, born while Berry was missing. The women went missing between August 2002 and April 2004. Castro was arrested in May after the women escaped.

Prosecutors have not said whether they will pursue the death penalty. Castro attorney Craig Weintraub has said a plea deal could be negotiated if the prosecution does not seek the death penalty, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

The death penalty enters into the case because of the aggravated murder charge, which stems from accusations that Castro beat and tortured one of the three women to induce miscarriage.



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