CHICAGO (CBS) — The Indiana man whose 18-month old granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand, fell to her death from a window on a Royal Caribbean cruise while it was docked in Puerto Rico last July, will plead guilty to negligent homicide.
“I took a plea deal to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” Salvatore Anello said in a statement to “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday.
Anello pleaded not guilty after Puerto Rican authorities charged him with negligent homicide in October, but his defense attorney said he was offered a plea deal that will allow him to avoid jail time, and won’t require him to admit to the facts of the case presented by prosecutors. Instead, he is expected to get probation, and serve it in Indiana.
On July 7 of last year, Anello was on vacation with his family on board Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship, when he dropped Chloe out of a window while the ship was docked at San Juan.
Anello and his attorneys have said he didn’t know the window was open when he lifted Chloe up so she could bang on the glass in a children’s play area, much like she used to do at her brother’s hockey games.
“At the moment the accident happened, it was as if this wall of protective glass disappeared,” Anello said in his statement. “I was in complete disbelief … I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window. I just wanted to knock on the glass with her as we did together so many times before … I was placed in charge of keeping my beautiful granddaughter safe and I failed.”
Anello’s attorneys have blamed the cruise ship company for leaving the window inexplicably open with no glass.
“He thought it was all glass,” Attorney Michael Winkelman said in July. “There’s a wood railing right there. He puts her up on there, thinks she’s going to bang on the glass and it’s going to be great. She goes to bang on the glass and the next thing you know, she’s gone.”
However, the cruise ship line has said surveillance video proves Anello knew the window was open before Chloe fell to her death.
, obtained by CBS News, showed the moments before Chloe fell from the window. She is seen running over to a bank of windows and Anello is following her. He leans over a railing to look out and then reaches down, picks Chloe up, and holds her over the railing. She then falls 150 feet.
In an interview with CBS News correspondent David Begnaud last year,nothing prosecutors do to him could be worse than the guilt he already lives with.
“It’s inconsequential because of what has already happened is so horrible,” he said, but he added that he didn’t want to put his family through him going to jail “because they don’t want that.”
Anello is requesting a new court date in Puerto Rico, where he’ll go before a judge who will have to sign off on the plea deal.
Winkleman, who represents Chloe’s parents, said the trial has been difficult for the family. They had previously begged prosecutors not to charge Anello.
“With the criminal chapter closed, they can really grieve as a family,” Winkleman said. “And really then set their sights on … continuing to raise awareness about the dangers that took Chloe’s life, so that this doesn’t happen again to another child.
Chloe’s parents have, alleging the cruise ship was not compliant with industry safety standards. The company denies that claim.
Salvatore Anello’s full statement to “CBS This Morning”