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July 26, 2013

Man pleads guilty in Ohio kidnap case, avoids death penalty

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland man who imprisoned three women in his home, subjecting them to a decade of rapes and beatings, pleaded guilty Friday to 937 counts in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

Ariel Castro told the judge he was addicted pornography, had a "sexual problem" and had been a sexual abuse victim himself long ago.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors recommended Castro be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years.

Castro, 53, said he understood that he would never get out of prison, saying he expected he was "going to get the book thrown at me." He later added, "I knew that when I first spoke to the FBI agent when I first got arrested."

Castro, wearing glasses for the first time in court, was far more interactive than in previous court appearances when he mostly kept his head down and eyes closed. He answered the judge's questions in a clear, intelligible voice, saying he understood the proceedings and that he would never be released from prison.

Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico, said he could read and understand English well but had trouble with comprehension.

"My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind." He later said he had been a sexual abuse victim as a child, but the judge cut him off.

Near the end of the 2 1/2-hour hearing, the judge accepted the pleas and declared Castro guilty. Sentencing was set for Thursday.

The deal comes more than a month after a statement issued on behalf of the women said they were "hopeful for a just and prompt resolution" and had "great faith in the prosecutor's office and the court."

Castro had been scheduled for trial Aug. 5 on a 977-count indictment, but 40 counts were dropped as part of the plea deal. The indictment included two counts of aggravated murder related to accusations that he punched and starved one woman until she miscarried. The former school bus driver also was charged with hundreds of counts of kidnapping and rape, plus assault and other counts.

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