A lawyer says video showing a northern Indiana grandfather at the moment he dropped his granddaughter from the 11th floor of a cruise ship appears to support the man’s statement that he thought the window was closed, reports the IndyStar, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network.
“What I saw with the video, it’s pretty consistent with what my client has told me,” said José G. Pérez Ortiz, who represents Anello in the criminal case. “My client thought that the window was closed. Nothing in the video is inconsistent.”
Chloe Wiegand was in a play area on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship Freedom of the Seas as it was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 8 when she fell 115 feet to the ground.
Police initially said Anello told officers he lost his grip while holding the girl outside the window, the Associated Press reported.
Anello, through attorneys, has said he thought the window was closed when he lifted the girl to the railing so she could bang on the glass, like she did when her brother plays hockey.
Prosecutors in Puerto Rico charged Salvatore Anello last month with negligent homicide in the death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand, Anello’s granddaughter.
Anello, 51, of Valparaiso, “negligently exposed the child to the abyss through a window on the 11th floor of the cruise ship,” Puerto Rico Attorney General Dennise N. Longo Quiñones and other officials said in an Oct. 28 news release announcing the charge and Anello’s arrest.
Negligent homicide is a misdemeanor charge, but carries the same penalty as a fourth-degree felony under Puerto Rico law, said Juan Torruella Rojas, a San Juan defense lawyer who is not affiliated with the case.
If convicted, Rojas said negligent homicide carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
“This scar will be with them for the rest of their lives,” said Ortiz, who represents Anello in the criminal case.
Anello appeared in court in Puerto Rico for a hearing Wednesday. He is scheduled to return to court on Dec. 17.
Ortiz said prosecutors turned over evidence Wednesday, including video taken aboard the ship that shows the incident. Ortiz declined to release the video to IndyStar on Thursday.
“With all the issues we have in Puerto Rico with high criminality rates, I don’t know why prosecutors are pursuing this case,” Ortiz said. “This is an accident and a tragedy.”
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to IndyStar’s request for comment.
Chloe’s parents live in Granger, Indiana. Her father, Alan Wiegand, is an officer with the South Bend Police Department.
The Wiegands have supported Anello, whom they call Sam, and blame cruise line for failing to protect its passengers.
“There is just no real reason to charge this man with any crime,” said Michael Winkleman, a civil attorney representing Chloe’s parents. “You could make an argument that whoever opened that window should be charged with a crime, not Sam.”
Brian Rice, a Brownsburg father of two, died Friday after he fell four stories from a balcony to a lower deck as the Carnival Horizon cruise ship was returning to Miami, authorities said. Police in Florida were still investigating.
Contact IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert at 317-444-2701 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @VicRyc.