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Captain of luxury Costa Concordia cruise ship to face trial over deadly wreck

Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images, file

Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino leaves after a session of the trial in the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster on April 15, 2013 in Grosseto.

ROME -- He was judged guilty by public opinion after his cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, capsized off the tiny Italian island of Giglio last year, killing 32 people and leaving thousands traumatized. Now Captain Francesco Schettino will face justice in a court of law.

A judge in Grosseto, a town in Tuscany, announced Wednesday that there was enough evidence to try Schettino for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard. Schettino denies the charges.

The Costa Concordia ran aground in January 2012 as it passed very close to the island's shore. It was one of the most high-profile shipwrecks since the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.


The Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,200 passengers, ran aground Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy killing 32 people - including two Americans.

Schettino will be the only defendant in the trial, which will begin on July 9 in Grosseto. Five other defendants have sought plea bargains in separate cases.

Schettino's defense team tried to convince Judge Paolo Molino to drop the charge of abandonment of ship, one of the worst and most embarrassing offenses for a captain. But Molino ruled there was enough evidence to suggest the captain left the cruise liner voluntarily hours before the last passenger was rescued, rather than falling off the ship accidentally as he initially claimed.

"I can only tell you that anyone who has been in a position of authority would feel very, very depressed, exactly as he feels," said Francesco Pepe, Schettino's lawyer. 

He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to his lawyer.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Full coverage of the Costa Concordia disaster on NBCNews.com