In a statement released on Tuesday, Salvatore Anello said he’ll plead guilty in a Puerto Rico court to negligent homicide to allow his family to move on from the tragedy that occurred on July 7 while in San Juan.
“I took a plea deal today to try to help end part of this nightmare for my family, if possible,” Anello said in the statement, following a family attorney announcing his intention to change his original not guilty plea.
The Wiegand family’s lawyer, Michael Winkleman, told NBC News that Anello, 51, filed paperwork to change his plea for a settlement that included no jail time.
“The support they continue to give me has been beyond overwhelming and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for them,” his statement continued. He added that justice for his granddaughter should include more safety measures on Freedom of the Seas, the cruise ship the family was on at the time of Chloe’s death.
“We need to make sure nothing like this will ever happen to another precious baby, or anyone else for that matter, ever again.”
A hearing date for the plea change hasn’t been announced.
Anello’s agreement allows him to serve his probation where he lives in South Bend, Ind., NBC adds. The deal “is in the best interests of the family so that they can close this horrible chapter and turn their focus to mourning Chloe,” according to the statement.
Puerto Rican authorities first charged the 51-year-old with negligent homicide in October, to which the grandfather pleaded not guilty.
A judge in San Juan then ordered Anello’s arrest and set his bail at US$80,000, the governor’s office said at the time.
At the time, Winkleman said Chloe was perched on a railing in a play area before the fall. Anello held the girl up to bang on what he thought was glass, Winkleman said.
The girl was used to banging on the glass at her older sibling’s hockey games. However, there was no glass in front of the girl, and she fell.
In December, the family filed a federal civil action against Royal Caribbean Cruises, placing blame on the company for the tragic accident. A judge, NBC says, approved the suit this month after Royal Caribbean sought to block it.
In days following Chloe’s death, Royal Caribbean released a statement to media, which read: “We are deeply saddened by this incident, and our hearts go out to the family. We have assisted the authorities in San Juan with their inquiries, and they are the appropriate people to address further questions.”
The cruise company hasn’t released a statement regarding Anello’s change of plea.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.