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News Wrap: Cleveland Kidnapper Agrees to Plea Deal to Avoid Death Penalty

July 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: The Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for 10 years or more agreed to a deal today that avoids the death penalty. Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to more than 900 criminal counts, including kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder.

Castro told Judge Michael Russo he will accept a sentence of life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years.

JUDGE MICHAEL J. RUSSO, Cuyahoga County, Ohio: So, finally, sir, again, do you understand, Mr. Castro, that upon entering this plea, you will never be released from prison?

ARIEL CASTRO, defendant: I do understand that. And I stated that to Dave — what’s his last name?

MAN: The agent.

ARIEL CASTRO: The agent, Dave, at Sex Crimes that I knew I was going to get pretty much the book thrown at me.

KWAME HOLMAN: The judge then accepted the pleas.

Afterward, prosecutor Timothy McGinty talked about the outcome.

TIMOTHY MCGINTY, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor: By the terms of this agreement, this man is going to prison for the rest of his life, is never coming out, except nailed in a box or an ash can. He’s not stepping out. He’s going down broke. He’s leaving his assets behind, and that’s justice.

KWAME HOLMAN: Castro’s three victims, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, have remained out of public view. They issued a statement saying they were satisfied with the plea deal. Castro’s formal sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

The prosecution rested today in the federal racketeering trial of James “Whitey” Bulger, the reputed Boston crime boss. He’s charged with involvement in 19 murders, extortion, and money laundering. Bulger fled Boston in 1994. He was captured in California two years ago. His defense is expected to begin its case Monday.

The mother of Trayvon Martin is calling for action to repeal stand your ground self-defense laws. Sybrina Fulton told the National Urban League today she blames Florida’s law for the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin. In an ABC interview, the only non-white juror in the trial said she initially voted to convict on second-degree murder, but finally decided there wasn’t enough evidence.

MADDY, Zimmerman trial juror: I want Trayvon’s mom to know that I’m hurting, and if she thought that nobody cared about her son, I could speak for myself — I do care. I couldn’t do anything about it. And I felt like I let a lot of people down. If I would have used my heart, I probably would have went a hung jury.

KWAME HOLMAN: Another juror has said she believed Zimmerman acted to protect himself after Martin attacked him.

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden will not face the death penalty for anything he’s done if he returns to the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder gave that assurance to the Russian justice minister in a letter released today. Snowden has spent the past month in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. He’s seeking asylum in Russia. He is wanted in the U.S. for espionage.

In Pakistan, at least 39 people were killed today when a pair of bombs exploded in a busy market. It happened in the Kurram tribal area in the north, bordering Afghanistan. Taliban militants and government forces have battled in the area for years. In addition to the dead, today’s attack wounded at least 70 people.

Police in Spain have arrested the man at the controls of a train that derailed this week, killing at least 78 people. They also began examining the train’s black box today to determine why it was traveling at such high speed.

We have a report from John Ray of Independent Television News.

JOHN RAY: Face bloodied, shaken and shattered, he is helped from the wreckage of his own train. This is the driver now accused of causing the crash that killed and injured so many of his passengers.

They are clearing the line and searching for clues. Investigators know it was speed that led to catastrophe. Their inquiry is leading swiftly to just one man. The crash site is now a crime scene and the prime suspect is the driver. Officially, he has been arrested. Unofficially, a very public trial is already under way.

The man behind the controls, Francisco Jose Garzon, had been driving trains for 10 years. But when it came to the sharp bend near Santiago de Compostela, he was speeding at more than twice the 50-mile-an-hour limit. Seconds after the impact, he radioed: “I have messed it up. I want to die. I have come off the track. What am I going to do?”

Suspicion has also been aroused by his Facebook page. In March last year, he posted a picture of a speedometer as his train reached 200 kilometers an hour. Alongside, he wrote, “What joy it would be to get level with the police and then go past them, making their speed guns go off.”

The town remains in mourning, where relatives of the missing find small comforts as they wait for confirmation of the worst. More tears will be shed. At the hospital where staff stood in silence to respect the dead, there are many still dangerously ill. The driver lies in the same hospital under police guard.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president of the railway company said the driver had an exhaustive understanding of the rail line.

A U.S. major hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded not guilty today to federal criminal charges involving insider trading. The plea came a day after the firm was indicted criminally for wire and securities fraud. It allegedly earned millions of dollars on illegal trades over a 10-year period. The head of SAC, billionaire Steven Cohen, is facing civil charges of failing to prevent insider trading.

The mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, says he’s going to start therapy, amid growing claims he sexually harassed women. Filner apologized today, after several women said he kissed and groped them and put them in headlocks.

The former Democratic congressman said he will attend two weeks of intensive counseling.

MAYOR BOB FILNER, D-San Diego, Calif.: I must become a better person. And my hope is that becoming a better person, I put myself in a position to someday be forgiven. However, before I even ask, before I even think of asking for forgiveness, I need to demonstrate that my behavior has changed.

KWAME HOLMAN: Filner is less than eight months into a four-year term as mayor. He rejected calls for his resignation.

The Swiss bank UBS will pay $885 million to settle claims that it misrepresented the safety of mortgage-backed securities during the U.S. housing bubble. When the bubble burst, the value of the securities largely evaporated. Under the agreement announced last night, UBS will make payments to the government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

On Wall Street, stocks ended the day about where they began. The Dow Jones industrial average gained three points to close at 15,558. The NASDAQ rose nearly eight points to close at 3,613. For the week, the Dow gained a 0.1 percent; the NASDAQ rose 0.7 percent.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington was temporarily closed today after being vandalized. Overnight, someone splashed light green paint across parts of the statue of the nation’s 16th president, plus the pedestal and the floor. Crews worked throughout the day to clean off the paint.

 A spokeswoman for the National Park Service said, luckily, the damage is not permanent.

CAROL JOHNSON, National Park Service: And these national treasures are — need to be protected. People come from all over the world to see them and, you know, it’s just really disturbing that someone would do this. And, you know, I’m not sure what else to, say except the Park Service takes great pride in taking care of these national icons, and anything like this is devastating to us.

KWAME HOLMAN: Park police are reviewing security camera video from the scene to try to identify the vandal.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.