The defense lawyers for Ariel Castro say that he plans to plead not guilty to all charges in the alleged kidnapping and rape of three Ohio women who went missing a decade ago. Attorneys Craig Weintraub and Jaye Schlachet delivered that news in an interview with NBC’s local affiliate in Cleveland, WKYC.
“The initial portrayal by the media has been one of a ‘monster’ and that’s not the impression that I got when I talked to him for three hours,” Weintraub said. “I know that family members who have been interviewed by the media have also expressed that as well, and they’re simply stunned that this occurred.” He added that “the media and the community want to demonize this man before they know the whole story.”
The latter half of the lawyer’s comments don’t line up with what we’ve heard from Castro’s brothers, who told CNN earlier this week that they hope the 52-year-old “rots in jail” for what he did.
Of course, just because Castro’s lawyers say he won’t plead guilty, doesn’t rule out the possibility that he eventually will. Holding out now provides the defense with leverage to later use a guilty plea as part of a larger deal, perhaps one that would spare Castro the death penalty. (The prosecution is no doubt eager to avoid a trial that would force Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight to take the stand and relive the years they spent in captivity.)
One thing that Castro’s lawyers aren’t denying is that he fathered Berry’s 6-year-old daughter who police say was born while Berry was being held captive—a fact that on its face would appear to make Castro’s defense that much more difficult. Weintraub said that Castro “loves dearly” the little girl.
While Castro has so far only been charged with seven felonies—three counts of rape; four counts of kidnapping—prosecutors say that they’ll look to add as many additional charges that they feel can be supported by the evidence. They have suggested that the total number could ultimately reach the hundreds, if not thousands, and may include aggravated murder charges in connection with the alleged forced miscarriages suffered by one of the women. If convicted on those charges, Castro would be eligible for the death penalty under Ohio law.
Read more in Slate about the Cleveland kidnapping case, and follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.
This post has been updated with additional information.