Ariel Castro appearing in a Cleveland court Friday, accepts plea deal to avoid death penalty
Gary Strauss, USA TODAY
Ariel Castro told a Cleveland judge Friday that he has a "sexual problem" and is "addicted to pornography" after accepting a plea deal on kidnapping, rape and murder charges that will keep him imprisoned for the rest of his life.
In his most extensive public comments since his May 6 arrest, a contrite, soft-spoken Castro told Judge Michael Russo that his sexual problems and porn addiction "had really taken a toll on my mind." He did not elaborate what his sexual problems were, but said later he had been "victimized" as a child.
The plea deal allows the former school bus driver to avoid the death penalty and spares the three women he kidnapped, tortured and physically abused for more than a decade from testifying against him.
Castro, 53, faced a 977-count indictment for kidnapping Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight between 2002 and 2004. He also fathered a child with Berry, born on Christmas Day in 2006.
"I don't agree with the wording, but I will plead guilty,'' said Castro, who'll be back in court Aug. 1 for formal sentencing. He appeared alert and looked directly at the judge for much of the proceeding, a contrast to prior court appearances, when he spent much of the time averting eye contact.
Castro, scheduled for an Aug. 5 trial, said he "pretty much knew the book was going to be thrown at him" following his arrest after Berry managed to escape his Seymour Avenue home.
Knight had said that Castro impregnated her five times during his reign of terror, but the pregnancies terminated after Castro starved and beat her.
Heavily shackled and wearing a bright orange jail jumpsuit and glasses, Castro, a native of Puerto Rico, also claimed he had been sexually abused as a child, but did not elaborate.
He also said he understood he was giving up his rights under the plea deal, but said there were some things he did not "comprehend because of my sexual problems through the years."
As part of the plea agreement, Castro will turn his home over to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. Prosecutor Tim McGinty said it would be demolished soon.