Jail Sentence Suspended for Five Costa Concordia Crew Members Found Guilty of Manslaughter

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Costa CruisesThe survivors and loved ones of those who were killed in the tragic Costa Concordia cruise ship accident in January 2012 have yet to obtain some semblance of justice for their pain and suffering. Many thought the Concordia trail would actually bring victims a little peace after struggling through the horrific capsizing accident, but after a verdict was handed down in Italy regarding the fate of five crew members charged with manslaughter, it appears as though there STILL won’t be any justice for Concordia victims.

Five Concordia crew members were sentenced in Italian court last Friday for their role in the cruise ship disaster. The seafarers, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, negligence and shipwreck, received varying jail sentences between 18 to 34 months. However, it seems as though no one will be spending any time in jail, despite being found guilty of the crime.

It is a sad day for Costa victims, after all five Concordia crew member sentences were suspended, meaning the accused will NOT be going to jail after all.

In a verdict that attorneys representing victims – including our cruise ship lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. – have considered “shameful,” those who were sentenced to serve less than two years in jail got a very big – and unmerited – break and had their penalties completely suspended. As for the crew members who were given longer sentences, they probably won’t face imprisonment either since the sentences can be appealed or can easily be reduced to a mere few hours of community service or house arrest.

Too bad the victims of the Costa Concordia accident don’t have the same luxury of being given a second chance.

A total of 32 people were killed in the capsizing tragedy after former Costa Capt. Francesco Schettino decided to make a last minute change in the ship’s itinerary to perform a “salute,” a maneuver which brings a vessel unsafely close to shore.  In doing so, the ship struck a large rock, which tore a gash in the hull, causing the Concordia to partially sink off the coast of Giglio, Italy.

Schettino, who has received the brunt of the blame for the accident, has denied any wrongdoing, going as far as to say he was a hero and his actions in the wake of the crash actually saved countless lives. Of course, he’s the only person who really believes this.

The former captain has been charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship and has changed his version of the accident several times. In his latest testimony, Schettino claims he was accidentally thrown off the ship.

Now that the plea deals for the five crew members have been entered, Schettino is the only defendant left in the Costa Concordia case. The owner of Costa Cruises, Costa Crociere, S.p.A., won’t be taking any responsibility for the accident and will walk away from the incident with only a 1 million Euro administrative fine – a penalty which pales in comparison to the damages the company could have really been held liable for – and ZERO criminal charges. In fact, Costa Crociere’s new role in the case will be one of a victim who lost a ship due to the negligent actions of the captain and crew members, instead of a defendant whose lack of cruise ship safety policies and failure to adequately train crews to properly handle an emergency evacuation cost 32 innocent people their lives.

Who knows what fate will be in store for Schettino, but if proceedings continue to unfurl in this manner, he will probably be acquitted of all charges, get his job back and never have to pay a price for his wrongful actions.

That is, if the case even continues. At the rate it’s going, an actual sentence won’t be delivered until maybe next year – if we are lucky. The trial was interrupted from the get-go by a national Italian lawyer strike and now, will be on hiatus again until September.

The lives of all Costa Concordia passengers and their loved ones were radically and unfairly changed on January 13, 2012 in the blink of an eye, but it seems as though justice for victims is shaping up to be more of a commodity than an actual right. The very least the court system could do is execute a swift sentence for all who were accused of playing a role in the cruise ship accident, but it’s become apparent that the road to justice is going to be a very long and complicated one.