Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino has broken down in tears in court as he made an emotional last-ditch appeal to judges to clear him of causing the 2012 cruise ship disaster.
After outlining the harassment and character assassination he says he has suffered over the last three years, the 54-year-old captain on Wednesday urged the three judges who will decide his fate not to make him the sole scapegoat for an accident that left 32 people dead.
Schettino is accused of recklessly steering the giant ship onto rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio, negligently delaying an order to abandon ship and then leaving the ship himself in a cowardly and unprofessional manner.
“I have spent the last three years in a media meat grinder,” the disgraced skipper, who faces a 26-year prison term if convicted on manslaughter and other charges, said.
“It is difficult to call what I have been living through a life.”
“All the responsibility has been loaded onto me with no respect for the truth or for the memory of the victims.”
Schettino then began to detail the hounding of which he says he has been a victim but was unable to complete his remarks.
Breaking into loud sobs, he concluded his address by declaring “basta (enough)” before slumping back down into his seat.
The judges in what has been a 19-month trial were due to retire on Wednesday to consider a verdict which is expected to be delivered in the evening or on Thursday morning.
Prosecutors have asked for Schettino to be given a prison sentence of 26 years and three months for multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship with passengers and crew still on board.
Schettino blames his crew for the collision, says the delayed evacuation may have saved lives and insists he fell off the tilting boat, and was then ordered by its owners not to go back on board.