x

Society

2 American Men are Back in Italian Court after Convictions in Officer’s Slaying Were Thrown Out

ROME (AP) — A new trial opened Friday for two American men in the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer during a botched sting operation after Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions.

Italy’s highest Cassation Court ordered a new trial last year, saying it hadn’t been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants, with limited Italian language skills, had understood that they were dealing with Italian police officers when they went to meet an alleged drug dealer in Rome.

Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Natale-Hjort, who were teenagers at the time of the July 26, 2019 slaying, sat side-by-side as an appeals court judge made opening remarks in the new trial. The two are being held in separate prisons near the Italian capital.

Rosa Maria Esilio, widow of Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, attends the appeal trial for his murder, in Rome, Friday, March. 8, 2024.Two American men face a new trial in the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer during a botched sting operation after Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The friends from California were found guilty in the 2021 killing of Carabinieri Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega and four other counts and sentenced to life in prison, Italy’s harshest punishment. The sentences were reduced to 24 years for Elder and 22 years for Natale-Hjorth on appeal.

Prosecutors alleged Elder, who was 19 at the time, stabbed Cerciello Rega 11 times with a knife that he brought with him on his trip to Europe, and that Natale-Hjorth, then 18, helped him hide the knife in their hotel room. Natale-Hjorth testified that he grappled with Cerciello Rega’s partner and was unaware of the stabbing when he ran back to the hotel.

The two friends had arranged to meet a small-time drug dealer, who turned out to be a police informant, to recover money lost in a bad deal and return a backpack they had snatched in retaliation, when they were confronted by the officers.

FILE — In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020 file photo, Rosa Maria Esilio, widow of Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, holds a photograph of her husband ahead of a hearing of the trial in which two American tourists are accused of his murder in Rome. Two American men face a new trial Friday, March 8, 2024, in the slaying of an Italian plainclothes police officer during a botched sting operation after Italy’s highest court threw out their convictions.(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Pool, file)

Elder and Natale-Hjorth were school friends from northern California who were meeting up for a few days in Rome, where Natale-Hjorth had family.

The killing of 35-year-old newlywed Cerciello Rega shocked Italians, who mourned him as a national hero.


By GIADA ZAMPANO Associated Press

RELATED

NEW YORK  — After 22 witnesses, including a porn actor, tabloid publisher and White House insiders, testimony is over at Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Zelensky outcries to world from Kharkiv (VIDEO)

KHARKIV - Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has released a video plea calling on world leaders to attend a “peace summit” next month in Switzerland after a deadly Russian attack on a DIY hypermarket in Kharkiv on Saturday.

ATHENS - A current detente with Turkey after the two countries were once near a point of conflict isn’t keeping Greece from continuing to build its arsenal but three new French Belharra-class frigates won’t be put into service for another year or two.

ATHENS - With an eye on high food prices, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis asked voters in the June 6-9 European Parliament elections to back his efforts to accelerate an economic recovery while his opponents hoped to make gains.

KHARKIV - Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has released a video plea calling on world leaders to attend a “peace summit” next month in Switzerland after a deadly Russian attack on a DIY hypermarket in Kharkiv on Saturday.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.