ROME – An Italian prosecutor on Saturday asked for life in prison two young American men accused of murdering an Italian police officer in central Rome.
Prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta asked the court to find the two defendants – Elder Finnegan Lee, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20 – guilty and handed down Italy’s maximum sentence for 26 July 2019, stabbed the death of Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega. Calabretta called the attack “disproportionate and lethal”.
The defense will make its closing arguments starting March 18, before court decide the verdict and sentence.
The two Americans were on vacation in Rome when they were confronted by a pair of plainclothes Carabinieri officers who the couple believed was going to be a meeting with a middleman in a cocaine deal that had gone sour.
The elder admitted to defending himself, testifying this month that he stabbed the victim because he was afraid of being strangled by thugs.
Cerciello Rega, 35, and colleagues have been tasked with responding to what prosecutors alleged was an attempted small-scale extortion by America after friends paid for cocaine they did not receive. In retaliation, the Americans grabbed the middleman’s backpack with the phone in it and arranged a meeting to exchange it for the 80 euros ($ 96) they had lost in a bad drug deal.
Cerciello Rega’s colleague, Andrea Varriale, testified that he was trying to stop the flow of blood flowing like a “fountain” from his partner. The killed officer, who was unarmed, was stabbed 11 times.
Varriale also testified that he heard his colleague shout “Carabinieri!” as the Elder and the slain officer struggled on the way.
But Elder said in court that he had not heard such an identification cry.
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