July 22nd, 2024

Italy appeals court upholds conviction of 2 Americans in death of Rome cop but reduces sentences

By The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

ROME (AP) – An Italian appeals court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of two American men in the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer during a botched sting operation but reduced their sentences.

The new trial was ordered after Italy’s highest court threw out their original convictions.

The court convicted Lee Elder Finnegan and sentenced him to 15 years and 2 months in prison and gave a sentence of 11 years to Gabriele Natale-Hjorth.

They were found guilty in the July 2019 slaying of Carabinieri Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega. Prosecutors had asked that Finnegan be sentenced to 23 years and nine months and 23 years for Natale-Hjorth.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

ROME (AP) – Two American men convicted in the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer during a botched sting operation faced another verdict on Wednesday in a new trial after Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions.

After closing arguments in the morning, deliberations began around lunchtime and the tribunal president said a verdict was expected later in the day.

Prosecutors have asked the court to find the pair guilty in the July 2019 slaying of Carabinieri Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, with a prison sentence of 23 years and nine months for Lee Elder Finnegan and 23 years for Gabriele Natale-Hjorth.

Teenagers at the time of the slaying, the former schoolmates from the San Francisco Bay area had met up in Rome to spend a few days vacationing. The fatal confrontation took place after they arranged to meet a small-time drug dealer, who turned out to have been a police informant, to recover money lost in a bad deal. Instead, they were confronted by the officers.

Cerciello Riga was stabbed 11 times with a knife brought from the hotel room.

The defense has argued that the defendants were not aware they were facing law enforcement when the attack happened.

The highest court threw out E lder’s conviction and 24-year sentence and asked the appeals court to consider the charge of resisting an officer. For Natale-Hjorth, the appeals court was ordered to look at the charge of complicity to commit murder.

The killing of the officer in the storied Carabinieri paramilitary police corps shocked Italy. Cerciello Rega, 35, was mourned as a national hero.

Prosecutors alleged Elder stabbed Cerciello Rega with a knife that he brought with him on his trip to Europe and that Natale-Hjorth helped him hide the knife in their hotel room. Under Italian law, an accomplice in an alleged murder can also be charged with murder without carrying out the slaying.

Prosecutors contend the young Americans concocted a plot involving a stolen bag and cellphone after their failed attempt to buy cocaine with 80 euros ($96) in Rome’s Trastevere nightlife district. Natale-Hjorth and Elder testified they had paid for the cocaine but didn’t receive it.

Share this story:

16
-15
Subscribe
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments