Ariel Castro stands before a judge during his arraignment on an expanded… (Tony Dejak / Associated…)
A hearing will be held Friday for Ariel Castro amid reports that lawyers for the former Cleveland bus driver have reached a plea deal in the case involving the kidnapping and rape of three women.
The hearing will be held before Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo, according to an official at the courthouse who asked not to be identified.
At a hearing this week, Russo asked lawyers for both sides if they were working toward a plea deal and they said they were.
Defense attorney Craig Weintraub was not available for comment. A spokesman for Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said she could not comment on any plea deal.
Castro, 53, is accused of imprisoning and brutalizing the three women in his home for about a decade. He has pleaded not guilty to 977 charges, including 512 counts of kidnapping and 446 counts of rape. He is also charged with aggravated murder in the beating and starving of one woman and forcing her into having a miscarriage, a charge that could carry the death penalty.
Though the details of a possible deal were unknown, it would probably include avoiding the death sentence, according to media reports. The first reports came from WKYC-TV.
Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27, were freed from Castro's home May 6, along with a 6-year-old girl Castro fathered with Berry.
A plea deal would also probably mean that the three women would be spared testifying about their ordeal. Castro’s trial is scheduled to start Aug. 5.
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