Ariel Castro told a Cleveland judge Friday that he has a "sexual problem" and is "addicted to pornography" after accepting a plea deal on kidnapping, rape and murder charges that will keep him imprisoned for the rest of his life.
In his most extensive public comments since his May 6 arrest, a contrite, soft-spoken Castro told Judge Michael Russo that his sexual problems and porn addiction "had really taken a toll on my mind." He did not elaborate what his sexual problems were, but said later he had been "victimized" as a child.
The plea deal allows the former school bus driver to avoid the death penalty and spares the three women he kidnapped, tortured and physically abused for more than a decade from testifying against him.
Castro, 53, faced a 977-count indictment for kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight between 2002 and 2004. He also fathered a child with Berry, born on Christmas Day in 2006. The plea agreement consolidated the charges to 937.
"I don't agree with the wording, but I will plead guilty,'' said Castro, who'll be back in court Aug. 1 for formal sentencing. He appeared alert and looked directly at the judge for much of the proceeding, a contrast to prior court appearances, when he spent much of the time averting eye contact.
Castro, scheduled for an Aug. 5 trial, said he "pretty much knew the book was going to be thrown at him" following his arrest after Berry managed to escape his Seymour Avenue home.
Knight had said that Castro impregnated her five times during his reign of terror, but the pregnancies terminated after Castro starved and beat her.
Heavily shackled and wearing a bright orange jail jumpsuit and glasses, Castro, a native of Puerto Rico, also claimed he had been sexually abused as a child, but did not elaborate.
He also said he understood he was giving up his rights under the plea deal, but said there were some things he did not "comprehend because of my sexual problems through the years."
Jones Day, the law firm representing Castro's victims - now in their 20s and 30s, said the women are relieved.
"They are satisfied by this resolution to the case, and are looking forward to having these legal proceedings draw to a final close in the near future. They continue to desire their privacy. They do not wish to speak to the media or anyone else, and they thank people for continuing to respect their privacy as they grow stronger. They are immensely grateful for the support they have received from family, friends, and the donations to the Cleveland Courage Fund."
As part of the plea agreement, Castro will turn his home over to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank. Prosecutor Tim McGinty said it would be demolished soon.
Following the hearing, McGinty said the victims' had approved the plea deal. But McGinty also blasted Castro, calling him "a coward" and being in his own world.
McGinty also discounted Castro's courtroom statements.
"He's a thespian playing a contrite act,'' McGinty said.