Ariel Castro's vain pleas that he was not a violent man fell on deaf ears, as Judge Michael Russo accepted a plea deal that saw him convicted on 977 criminal counts. In a rambling quasi-apology to his three victims, one of whom sat sat stonily in the courtroom, Castro claimed he had acted on impulse as a result of sexual addiction.
Castro pleaded guilty last week after prosecutors agreed to take the death penalty off the table. Michelle Knight, who was snatched off the street in 2002 at the age of 20, welcomed the sentence, arguing that death would have been "so much easier" for her tormenter.
"I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning," Knight said. Castro said that he still couldn't understand what had driven him to hold the three women captive, but insisted "there was harmony in that home." "I am not a monster. I was sick," Castro said, insisting he was addicted to sex and pornography.
He also insisted the women were lying when they said he beat them, declaring "I am not a violent person." "Most of the sex that went on in the house, probably all of it, was consensual," Castro claimed. Russo had no interest in his excuses and sentenced Castro to 1,000 years in prison by imposing consecutive sentences on hundreds of charges.
"A person can only die in prison once," Russo said in passing the sentence, dismissing the idea that Castro was not a violent man. "You pled guilty to that and by virtue of your plea, when you rape someone, that's what it means," he said. "Sir, there's no place in this city, there is no place in this country and indeed there is no place in this world for those who enslave others, those who sexually assault others and those who brutalize others."
The case came to light after Amanda Berry, 27, managed to escape with her six-year-old daughter by calling out to a neighbor for help through a locked front door on May 6. More than 92 pounds of chains were found in the filthy, darkened home where the women were kept in locked rooms with boarded up windows.
Even more horrifying were the stories the thin, pale and bruised women told upon their release. "The damage that was done was a life sentence," psychiatrist Frank Ochberg testified. Lured into the car of a man they knew as the father of a friend or classmate at the ages of 20, 16, and 14, the women suffered violent beatings and repeated rapes.