Costa Concordia captain convicted of multiple charges of manslaughter

Francesco Schettino broke into sobs and couldn't finish his statement before panel retired to begin deliberations

Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground is seen off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island

GROSSETO, Italy — The captain of the capsized Costa Concordia luxury liner has been convicted of multiple charges of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in jail.

Earlier Wednesday, he told the court trying him for 32 shipwreck deaths that his “head was sacrificed” to safeguard economic interests, then broke down in sobs immediately before the panel began deliberating his fate.

“That’s enough,” Francesco Schettino said, unable to finish his statement to the three-judge panel.

He faces charges of manslaughter for causing the Jan. 13, 2012 shipwreck near tiny Giglio Island and abandoning ship while many of the 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

Throughout the 19-month trial, Schettino maintained he was a scapegoat. Testimony put the spotlight on errors by other crew and equipment malfunctions after the Concordia smashed into a jagged reef when Schettino steered the ship close to the Tuscan island’s shoreline while passengers were having supper in the main dining room.

The reef gashed the hull, seawater rushed in, and the Concordia listed badly, finally ending up on its side outside Giglio’s port. Autopsies determined that victims drowned aboard ship or in the sea after either falling or jumping off the ship during a chaotic, delayed evacuation.

Lawyers for many of the survivors and victims’ families have attached civil suits to the criminal trial to press the court to order Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian cruise company, to pay hefty damages.

While insisting Schettino deserves conviction and a stiff prison sentence, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have lamented to the court that no one from the cruise company’s upper echelons was put on trial.

Prosecutors insisted Schettino was a “reckless idiot” and asked the court to convict him and sentence him to 26 years and three months in prison.

Four Concordia crew members and Costa’s land-based crisis co-ordinator were allowed to plea bargain. None is serving prison time.

Costa Crociere’s lawyer at the trial has rejected the assertion that the company bore any blame in the shipwreck.

Cruise travel has been a growing part of tourism, one of Italy’s main industries. Costa Crociere SpA has been a big customer of an Italian state-controlled shipbuilder.