The Costa Concordia captain has been sentenced to just over 16 years in prison after being convicted of multiple charges of manslaughter in relation to the 2012 shipwreck. Francesco Schettino made a final appeal to the judges before the verdict was read out, sobbing in the courtroom while insisting he had been made a scapegoat for the accident.
The ship overturned in January 2012 after being sailed too close to the island of Giglio. Thirty-two people lost their lives.
On the final day of his trial, Schettino said he had "spent the last three years in a media meat grinder," adding: "All the responsibility has been loaded on to me with no respect for the truth or for the memory of the victims."
The verdict and sentencing brought an end to a trial that has been running since July 2013. Prosecutors had insisted Schettino was a "reckless idiot" and asked the court to sentence him to 26 years and three months in prison.
Schettino wasn't present when Judge Giovanni Puliatti read out the verdict Wednesday night in a Grosseto theater, but the former captain told the court earlier he was being "sacrificed" to safeguard the economic interests of his employer.
"That's enough," Schettino said, unable to finish his statement to the three-judge panel.
Testimony put the spotlight on errors by other crew and equipment malfunctions after the Concordia smashed into a jagged reef when Schettino steered the ship close to the Tuscan island's shoreline while passengers were having supper in the main dining room.
The reef gashed the hull, seawater rushed in, and the Concordia listed badly, finally ending up on its side outside Giglio's port. Autopsies determined that victims drowned aboard ship or in the sea after either falling or jumping off the ship during a chaotic, delayed evacuation.
Schettino said he was "a few hours from a verdict that should have involved an entire organisation and instead sees me as the only defendant."
"My head was sacrificed to serve economic interests," the 54-year-old Neapolitan seaman told the court.
Lawyers for many of the survivors and victims' families have attached civil suits to the criminal trial to press the court to order Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian cruise company, to pay hefty damages.
While insisting Schettino deserves conviction and a stiff prison sentence, the plaintiffs' lawyers have lamented to the court that no one from the cruise company's upper echelons was put on trial.