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5 cruise employees sentenced in shipwreck

GROSSETO, Italy -- Five employees of an Italian cruise company were convicted Saturday of manslaughter in the Costa Concordia shipwreck that killed 32 people, receiving sentences of less than 3 years that lawyers for victims and survivors criticized as too lenient.

The guilty verdicts for multiple manslaughter and negligence were the first in the sinking of the cruise liner carrying more than 4,000 crew and passengers near the Tuscan shore in January 2012.

The ship's captain, the only remaining defendant, was denied a plea bargain and is being tried separately. He faces up to 20 years, if convicted of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning the ship.

On Saturday, lawyers representing the 32 victims of the shipwreck said the sentences of the plea bargain -- a fraction of what is usually handed down for manslaughter -- were inadequate given the gravity of the disaster.

"It seems like a sentence for illegal construction," lawyer Massimiliano Gabrielli said. "It's an embarrassment."

Another lawyer for victims, Daniele Bocciolini, questioned the prosecutors' hypothesis placing the lion's share of the blame on Capt. Francesco Schettino.

The five employees of the Costa Crociere SpA cruise company were charged for their respective roles in the nautical maneuver that put the ship in peril, evacuation and response to the emergency.

The longest sentence went to the company's crisis coordinator, who was sentenced to 2 years and 10 months. Concordia's hotel director was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months, while two bridge officers and a helmsman got sentences ranging from 1 year and eight months to 1 year and 11 months. -- AP

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