2 Americans Convicted of Killing Italian Police Officer have Sentences Reduced

By DailyNewsUg,

An Italian appeals court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of two Americans accused of killing an Italian police officer in 2019, according to a joint statement from the lawyers representing them in Italy.

The court sentenced Finnegan Lee Elder to 15 years and two months in prison and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth to 11 years and four months in prison – further reductions from the original life sentences both men were handed in 2021, after a jury convicted them of murder, according to Craig Peters, the US lawyer representing the Elder family.

Elder and Natale-Hjorth were arrested in 2019 while on vacation in Rome for the murder of the Italian police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who was stabbed 11 times with a knife in a botched drug deal, police said at the time.

In 2022, Reuters reported that the appeals court had lowered Elder’s sentence to 24 years, and Natale-Hjorth’s sentence to 22 years.

“Elder admitted killing Rega, but both he and Natale-Hjorth said they had acted in self-defense because they thought (Rega and another police officer) who were not in uniform were thugs out to get them after a botched attempt to buy drugs,” the news agency reported at the time.

Ethan Elder, back to camera, hugs his son Finnegan Lee Elder before the reading of the judgment in Rome, Italy, on July 3, 2024. At right sits Gabriel Natale Hjorth.
Ethan Elder, back to camera, hugs his son Finnegan Lee Elder before the reading of the judgment in Rome, Italy, on July 3, 2024. At right sits Gabriel Natale Hjorth.

Italy’s highest Cassation Court ordered a new trial in 2023.

“The decision rendered today has highlighted a legal qualification of the conduct on that tragic night that is certainly more in line with Finnegan’s actual responsibilities,” Renato Borzone and Roberto Capra, the Italian lawyers for the Americans, said in their statement.

They added that the court had not yet given its reasoning for the verdict. However, they added that the court’s recognition that, at the time of the incident, Elder could not have known Rega was a police officer, allows the case “to be viewed quite differently.”

“It is regrettable that we have had to wait through five levels of jurisdiction to see recognized what the young American man has stated since his first interrogation,” the joint statement said.

Elder’s father Ethan said in the statement that “it should not be forgotten that this trial is connected to the tragedy of a person’s death” but he “felt it was right” to bring out the “truth of the facts” to help his son.

“From the very first moment, (Elder) stated that he did not understand that they were (policemen) and that he had reacted to a blocking attempt,” Ethan said in the statement. “But he could not rest because no one believed him.”

“I hope that while he will pay for his mistake, it will also open up hope for him in the future,” the statement ends.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

#MarioCercielloRega #FinneganLeeElder #GabrielNataleHjorth

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