18-month-old Chloe Wiegand died when she fell 11 stories from a cruise ship window.
update 10/15/2020 2:00 PM
Salvatore Anello has pled guilty to the negligent manslaughter of his granddaughter — but will not face jail time.
The Puerto Rico Department of Justice announced on Thursday that a judge had accepted his plea, and would sentence him on December 10, NBC reported.
The deal means the grandfather will avoid prison, and can serve probation in his home state of Indiana.
Anello had initially pled not guilty, but made the "incredibly difficult" decision to change his plea for the sake of the family, his attorney said.
"But because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts, 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," family lawyer Michael Winkleman said in a statement.
original story 12/18/2019 1:02 PM
Puerto Rican authorities are under fire after a video showing a toddler being dropped to her death from a cruise ship was leaked.
The family of Chloe Wiegand accused investigators of "deplorable and disgraceful" conduct after footage of their daughter's final moments was broadcast on Puerto Rican TV.
The 18-month-old died on when her grandfather Salvatore Anello accidentally dropped her from the 11th story window of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas, when it was docked in San Juan on July 7 of this year.
The devastated Anello was charged with negligent homicide. Footage from inside the ship — which is being used as evidence — had not been publicly seen, until it was leaked on Tuesday.
"The family is shocked by the deplorable and disgraceful misconduct that led to the release of this footage," the Wiegands said in a statement. "The family's sole motivation for not releasing the video was to protect their older child. That motivation has not changed."
"The family publicly asks the Puerto Rican authorities, why was this footage released? Why do you continue to inflict such heinous emotional distress on our family? Haven't we been punished enough by the loss of Chloe?"
The family also requested an immediate, independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the leak.
The harrowing 92-second clip, which circulated on Twitter, shows a side angle from inside the ship. Chloe, wearing a pink outfit, can be seen running towards the window, as her granddad follows behind. He is then seen hoisting the youngster up and out towards the window, where she disappears from view.
On Wednesday, Alello's defense attorney Jose Perez told CBS News that prosecutors were offering a plea deal; if he pleads guilty to negligent homicide he will get no jail time and minimum probation and supervision.
However, Perez said that while his client is considering the offer, he is intent on clearing his name at trial. "It's firm that he is innocent and he does not want to plea," he said.
In his explanation of what happened, Anello insists he didn't know the window was open, and claimed his colorblindness may have been a contributing factor.
He said he had lifted Chloe up to bang on the glass as she liked to do at her brother's hockey games — but the glass was not there. The family lawyer Michael Winkleman said the decision to charge the Anello was "pouring salt on the open wounds of this grieving family."
"Clearly, this was a tragic accident and the family's singular goal remains for something like this to never happen again," he said in an interview with ABC News. "Had the cruise lines simply followed proper safety guidelines for windows, this accident likely would never have happened."
"Why are you going to charge him with a misdemeanor when you know he's already been through such a terrible trauma? Everybody on earth agrees this was an accident, everybody knows there was no intent involved."
Chloe's parents insist Royal Caribbean are to blame, and have sued the company for failing to "provide reasonably safe children entertainment areas including reasonably safe windows."