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Portuguese model pleads innocent in journalist murder

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Portuguese male model accused of beating to death and castrating a prominent Portuguese journalist pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in a case that has rocked Portugal.

The victim, Carlos Castro, 65, was found lying in a pool of blood early last month in his room at the Intercontinental Hotel a few blocks from Times Square. The medical examiner's office said the cause of death was trauma to the head and strangulation.

Prosecutors charged Renato Seabra, 21, with one count of murder in the second degree.

Seabra, wearing gray sweat pants and an orange prison jacket, entered his not guilty plea through an interpreter at the brief hearing before state Supreme Court Judge Charles Solomon, who ordered him held without bail.

Seabra admitted to stabbing Castro with a corkscrew and also cutting off his testicles with the corkscrew, according to a confession contained in court documents.

Seabra admitted in the documents that the January 7 attack took at least an hour. Castro's face had shoe impressions and bruising, the complaint said.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney David Touger said: "We plan a vigorous defense for Mr. Seabra."

Seabra has been held at Bellevue Hospital Center -- local media said he had slashed his wrists.

Castro was born in Angola during Portugal's colonial rule in the African nation. He contributed to a wide range of media, including Diario de Noticias, 24 Horas and Correio de Manha, according to his website.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)