Plea Deal a Possibility in Toddler's Cruise Ship Death

Sam Anello was charged with negligent homicide in the death of Chloe Wiegand
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2019 10:45 AM CST
Grandpa in Cruise Ship Death Could Get Plea Deal
This May 11, 2006, file photo shows the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship docked in Bayonne, NJ.   (AP Photo/Mike Derer, File)

A plea deal is on the table for the grieving grandfather charged with negligent homicide in the July death of his 18-month-old granddaughter, Chloe Wiegand. The news comes as surveillance video of the toddler's 11-story fall from the open window of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was leaked to a Puerto Rican TV station, which aired it Tuesday night. The family's responses to both developments:

  • Statement on the video leak: "The family is shocked by the deplorable and disgraceful misconduct that led to the release of this footage. 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? Finally, the family requests an immediate, independent investigation done into the circumstances surrounding the leak."

  • On the possibility of a plea deal for Salvatore "Sam" Anello: CBS News reports that the Indiana grandfather, who appeared in court Tuesday, would get no jail time and a minimal amount of probation or supervision were he to plead guilty to negligent homicide, though ABC News reports the plea deal has not formally been offered yet. "It's firm that he is innocent and he does not want to plea," says his Puerto Rican defense attorney, who adds Anello would prefer to clear his name at trial—but that he is considering a plea deal, per CBS. The next hearing is Jan. 27.
A CBS correspondent was allowed to view the surveillance video and says it appears to show Anello lifting Wiegand up to a window before she falls out of it; he says he's colorblind and that may have been why he didn't realize the window was open. (Much more on the case here, including the family's lawsuit against the cruise line.)

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