A man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them in his home and raping them over a decade was given a late summer trial date Wednesday.
Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court for a brief hearing as Judge Michael Russo said he was aiming to begin the trial by Aug. 4, meeting a 90-day speedy trial requirement. Castro was arrested May 6, and the speedy trial requirement could be waived to allow more preparation time.
Castro faces another pretrial hearing June 26.
As in previous court appearances, Castro had his wrists and ankles shackled and kept his chin tucked in his chest. He answered "yes" and "no" to the judge’s questions about his understanding of the proceedings.
Outside court, Castro attorney Craig Weintraub said the defence was focused on whether the prosecution had enough evidence to get an aggravated murder conviction for an allegedly forced miscarriage involving one of the women. The prosecutor hasn’t said whether he would pursue the death penalty.
Weintraub hinted last week that a plea agreement to avoid a trial was possible if the death penalty was taken off the table.
Also Wednesday, lawmakers in Columbus briefly addressed a bill that would provide the women years of relief payments, college tuition and medical assistance.
Castro, who has pleaded not guilty, was indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.
The indictment alleges Castro held the women captive, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. It says one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.
Castro has been held on $8 million bail.
He was arrested shortly after one of the women broke through a door and yelled to neighbours for help.