Grandfather offered plea deal in girl's cruise ship death

CBSNews

An attorney for the grandfather of a toddler who fell to her death on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship tells CBS News that prosecutors are offering a plea deal. Sam Anello, who appeared in court in Puerto Rico Tuesday, is charged with negligent homicide in the July death of his granddaughter, 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand.

Meanwhile, surveillance video of the tragedy was leaked to a Puerto Rican TV show which aired it Tuesday night. CBS News does not have a copy of the video, but the family let "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud view it to see what happened. It appears to show Anello lifting Wiegand up to an open window while the ship was docked in Puerto Rico. Anelo said he thought the window was closed, but prosecutors believe he was reckless.

In a statement, the Wiegand family said: "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."

"We are unaware of how Kobbo Santarrosa obtained the video of the unfortunate incident where Chloe Wiegand lost her life," Attorney General Dennise Longo Quiñones told CBS News. "A careful review of said video confirms, however that Salvatore Anello is guilty of negligent homicide as charged.   The evidence collected in this case corroborates his criminal responsibility. We hope and expect Chloe's family fully cooperates with our proceedings and that justice prevails in this case with conviction."

There's no plea deal in writing yet, according to the attorney representing the Indiana grandfather. But he tells CBS News the agreement would require Anello to plead guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Wiegand. In exchange, he would get no jail time and minimum probation and supervision.

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Sam Anello seen with Chloe Wiegand in an undated photo. Wiegand Family

Puerto Rican defense attorney Jose Perez said Anello doesn't want to plead guilty and would rather clear his name at trial.

"It's firm that he is innocent and he does not want to plea," Perez said, but added that Anello is considering the deal.

In November, Anello told Begnaud that he is colorblind and that that condition could have contributed to him not realizing the window was open.

"I was just standing there, and then I just remember screaming that I thought there was glass," Anello said.

"Some of the people who've been on the boat have written to me and said, 'David, the windows are tinted, and so it is pretty easy to recognize that it's open.'" Begnaud said.

"I am colorblind," Anello said. "I've been told that that might be some reason, but I'm not the expert on that."

Wiegand's parents blame Royal Caribbean. Last week, they filed a lawsuit alleging the cruise line failed to "provide reasonably safe children entertainment areas including reasonably safe windows."

Asked what they want by suing, Kim Wiegand said, "We want them to fix their cruise ships so that no other kids get hurt."

Royal Caribbean has said its heart goes out to the family, but it has had no comment on the civil or criminal case. Anello is due back in court in January.

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