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Italy’s highest court orders new trial for American tourists over police officer’s death

ROME – Italy’s highest court late Wednesday ordered two American tourists to face a new trial for the murder of a police officer in central Rome after a failed 2019 attempt to buy drugs, but one of them The murder sentence was upheld.

Finnegan Lee Elder and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth were convicted in 2021 and sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of Mario Cerciello Rega. The sentence for Elder was reduced last year to 24 years and for Natale-Hjorth to 22 years.

The Rome-based Court of Cassation ruled that Alder was guilty of murder, but ordered a new trial because some related charges were not sufficiently substantiated.

Police said Cerciello Rega, 35, who was not armed at the time, was stabbed 11 times by Elder, then 19, with a 7-inch blade he had brought with him from the United States.

The court said that Natale-Hjorth, who was then 18 years old, should be tried again because there was not enough evidence of his complicity in the murder. He did not handle the murder weapon during the attack but was brawling with Andrea Variale, another police officer.

The court, which rules only on whether the laws were applied correctly and not on the merits of a case, said there was not enough evidence that the two tourists knew there were police in front of them, something that They both refuse.

“From the first minute we examined the court papers, we felt that Elder had absolutely no idea that he was confronting two police officers. That intervention was disproportionate. This decision could have a huge impact on the fine, Elder’s lawyer Renato Borzon said.

Two Americans, both from California, were in Italy on vacation, and tried to buy drugs from a local dealer in a tourist spot in Rome. He has said that he was duped, but managed to snatch the bag from a middleman as he tried to flee.

They later agreed to meet the dealer again to get their money back in exchange for the bag, but instead the two policemen came in plain clothes.

Elder admitted to killing Cerciello Rega, but both he and Natale-Hjorth said they had acted in self-defense because they thought the two policemen were thugs out to apprehend them.

“We are very satisfied with the result. We finally have someone who has listened to our reasons. Now a new page has opened in the trial, ”said Natale-Hjorth’s lawyer, Fabio Alonzi.

The Associated Press Contribution,



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