Ten centuries in prison for Castro, a speech of defiance from his victim
Michelle Knight to former captor: "After 11 years, I am finally being heard"
Representatives of other victims ask for privacy
Castro apologizes, attempts to explain his actions but finally, "I don't know why"
For his victims, Thursday was roughly a decade in coming.
That’s when Ariel Castro learned his fate for abducting and raping three women – Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus – over a period of approximately 10 years.
He pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts in a deal that eliminated the possibility of the death penalty.
For a man who sought to control the lives of others, the sentencing hearing was a stark reminder of how fortunes can change.
Castro, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, sat handcuffed at the defendant’s table. He was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In contrast, his victims – one of whom addressed the court and two of whom did so through representatives – spoke about their new-found freedom.
The script was flipped.
Here’s a look at five extraordinary moments from court:
1. Castro gets millennium in prison; judge hails victims who “have persevered”
Judge Michael Russo did not mince words when he handed down Castro’s sentence, amounting to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
“Sir, there’s no place in this city. There is no place in this country. Indeed, there is no place in this world for those who enslave others,” he said.
Contrary to the defendant’s testimony, Russo characterized Castro as a “victimizer,” not a victim.
“You made them slaves and you treated them as if they were not people, that they were just sex objects,” the judge said.
“You don’t deserve to be out in our community. You’re too dangerous because in your mind, you’re a victim, again, as opposed to those who actually did suffer.”
Castro interrupted Russo periodically to argue certain points. He took issue with being described as a “violent sexual predator.”
Russo claimed Castro was capable of choosing who he victimized, and elected to take advantage of young women.
“You felt you were dominating them but you were incorrect. You could not take away their dignity,” he said.
“Although they suffered terribly, Ms. Knight, Ms. DeJesus and Ms. Berry did not give up hope. They have persevered.
“In fact, they prevailed. These remarkable women again have their freedom, which is the most precious aspect of being an American.
“Mr. Castro you forfeited that right. You now become a number with the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. You will be confined for the remainder of your days.”
2. Knight speaks defiantly, eloquently: “Years turned into eternity”
Knight was the only one of Castro’s victims to speak directly in court.
Flanked by her attorneys, she painted a damning portrait of her former captor and rapist, and touched on the time she spent under his roof.
“I cried every night. I was so alone,” she said, wiping tears from her face.
“I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” Knight said.
“Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity. I knew nobody cared about me.”
She called Castro a hypocrite for going to church and coming home to abuse her and the other women.
The death penalty would be too easy, Knight told Castro, who sat stoically behind her as she spoke.
“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” she said.
Knight said she could forgive Castro, but that she will never forget. She hopes to help other victims of abuse.
“I know that there is a lot of people going through hard times, but we need to reach out a hand and hold them, and let them know that they’re being heard,” Knight said.
“After 11 years, I am finally being heard. And it’s liberating.”
3. Castro: “I don’t know why”
For the first time at length in court, Castro spoke, offering a window into how he thinks.
His roughly 16-minute statement was rambling. He spoke of what he considers his sexual addiction, and defended parts of his personality. He said he is a “happy person inside.”
Finally, Castro apologized.
“These people are trying to paint me as a monster, and I’m not a monster. I’m sick,” he said.
Castro told the court he was a victim of sex abuse as a child and struggled throughout life with addiction. He compared his behavior to that of alcoholics.
“I did not prey on these women. I just acted on my sexual instincts because of my sexual addiction, and God as my witness, I never beat these women like they’re trying to say that I did,” he said.
Castro described taking his first victim.
“When I got up that day, I did not say, ‘Oh, I’m going to get up and try to find some women,’ because it just wasn’t my character. But I know it’s wrong,” he said.
“I’m not trying to make excuses here. I know I’m 100% wrong for doing that.”
Castro apologized to Berry, Knight and DeJesus, and asked for their forgiveness. He became emotional and his voice broke.
“I am truly sorry for what happened. To this day, I am trying to answer my own questions. I don’t know why,” he said.
“I just hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me. Because we had a lot of harmony going on in that home.”
4. “She loves and she is loved,” spokeswoman says of DeJesus
Sylvia Colon, a family member and spokeswoman, addressed the court on behalf of DeJesus.
“Today we will close this chapter of our lives,” she said.
Colon asked for privacy for her family and for DeJesus, who she said is thriving.
“She laughs, she swims, she dances, and more importantly she loves and she is loved,” Colon said.
“She lives not as a victim, but as a survivor. Her insurmountable will to prevail is the only story worth discussing.”
Colon addressed Castro directly at one point. She turned to face him and spoke in Spanish, asking that God have mercy on his soul.
She also addressed members of the Castro family, saying that her family does not blame them.
“We are saddened that you are burdened with this horror and will unfortunately forever be tied to these atrocities,” she said.
“Please know that we do not hold you accountable and pray that you can one day be whole again.”
Colon continued: “Our family recognizes it is not for us to judge or determine any punishment. Only our higher power can do that.”
5. Berry’s sister: “Amanda’s concern is that her daughter will hear about things”
Castro’s third victim, Berry, was represented in court by her sister, Beth Serrano.
Her statement was short and to the point. Like the spokeswoman for DeJesus, she asked for privacy and said that her family member is getting stronger by the day.
“She is strong, beautiful, inside and out, and is doing better every day,” Serrano said, describing her sister as her best friend and the best person she knows.
She said Berry does not want people to talk or write about what happened. Her sister wants to protect her daughter, Serrano said.
“Amanda’s concern is that her daughter will hear about things, or read about things, said by the wrong people, the wrong way, at the wrong time – before Amanda thinks the time is right to tell her daughter.”
Berry had no control over anything for a long time, said Serrano.
“Please let her have control over this, so she can protect her daughter.”