Salvatore Anello pleads guilty negligent homicide: Indiana grandad who dropped 18 month toddler on Royal Caribbean cruise to plead guilty in her death.
Salvatore ‘Sam’ Anello is set to admit to negligent homicide just days after telling a court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that he wanted a trial. The change of course is likely to see the granddad avoid jail time had he gone to trial.
The IT worker has consistently protested his innocence over 18-month-old Chloe’s fatal plunge from the 11th deck of the Royal Caribbean Cruise boat, Freedom of the Seas as it docked there last July.
News of the ‘abrupt u-turn’ comes after the family’s US attorney, Michael Winkleman confirmed in an email to the dailymail of Anello’s decision to plead guilty to negligent homicide.
‘This decision was an incredibly difficult one for Sam and the family but because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts,’ the civil attorney wrote the tabloid reports.
‘It was decided the plea deal is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe and fighting for cruise passenger safety by raising awareness about the need for all common carriers to adhere to window fall prevention laws designed to protect children from falling from windows.’
Anello has lodged his plea with the court according to news reports in Puerto Rico, although it is thought the grandfather will still have to appear before a judge to give it in person before sentencing.
Negligent homicide can be punished with a three-year prison sentence under the Puerto Rican criminal code however prosecutors will likely recommend a period of probation that can be completed in Anello’s native Indiana.
Told, Puerto Rico’s Attorney General Dennise N. Longo Quiñones in a statement: ‘The Puerto Rico Department of Justice has diligently prosecuted the charges against Salvatore Anello in order to bring justice to Chloe’s unfortunate death.
‘The defendant filed a motion yesterday afternoon expressing his intent to plead guilty and asking for a hearing date where the court may accept his change of plea.
‘Anello’s decision to so proceed is wholly within his discretion and will become binding only upon his appearing before the court to voluntarily plead guilty.’
Chloe’s parents intend to still sue Royal Caribbean for damages:
Sources close to Chloe’s parents Alan and Kimberly Wiegand say the guilty plea will not change their belief that Royal Caribbean is ultimately responsible for her death.
The grieving couple from South Bend, Indiana are suing the cruise operator in a separate civil lawsuit, arguing there were no signs or notices to warn Anello that the ‘wall of glass’ he held Chloe up against contained windows that could be slid open.
When the grandpa lifted the little girl up to let her bang on the glass as she loved to do at her brother’s ice hockey games, Chloe tumbled overboard and died instantly as she landed 150ft below on the Pan American Pier 2.
Despite the windows having handles and a blue-green tint, the suit says it was harder for Anello to distinguish between a glass pane and thin air because he is color blind.
Police officer Alan, 41, and his attorney wife Kimberly, 37, could claim ‘unlimited’ damages for pain and mental suffering if their suit, filed in Miami federal court, succeeds.
However they say their sole motivation is to force Royal Caribbean to make their windows safer on the Freedom of the Seas so Chloe’s horror plunge is never repeated.
Did timing of release of grandad seemingly knowing window was open influence guilty plea?
Royal Caribbean has tried unsuccessfully to have the case thrown out, releasing video footage last month of Chloe’s last moments to argue that Anello poked his head through the window and ‘unquestionably’ knew it was open.
The company denies breaching industry safety standards, insisting Anello would only have had to rely on his ‘basic senses’ to realize he was endangering his granddaughter.
On-board camera footage of the incident shows Anello alone on deck with Chloe, who leads her grandfather away from the H20 zone splash pool towards the glass sides of the ship.
He lifts the toddler up and sits her down on a wooden handrail but suddenly she tumbles forwards and disappears from view.
‘All I know is I was trying to reach the glass and I know that we leaned over to try to have her reach the glass, at that point she slipped,’ Anello said in an interview with CBS. ‘Chloe being gone is the worst thing ever so I’m like, whatever, you know. There’s nothing worse that they could do to me than what’s already happened.’