ROME (AFP) – An Italian policeman who blindfolded a United States teen suspect following the murder of another officer in Rome in 2019 was handed a two-month suspended sentence Friday, Italian news media reported.
The blindfolding of Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, then 18, during a police interrogation after the stabbing dead of officer Mario Cerciello in July 2019 sparked widespread criticism, even as horror over the crime led to an outpouring of public grief.
In convicting officer Fabio Manganaro on Friday for abuse of authority, Judge Alfonso Sabella also ordered EUR5,000 (USD5,274) to be paid to Natale-Hjorth, now 22.
Natale-Hjorth and his friend Finnegan Elder were convicted in 2021 of murdering Cerciello in a botched drug bust while on vacation in Rome. They were given life sentences that were later reduced under appeal to 22 and 24 years, respectively.
Those sentences are due to be considered by Italy’s Supreme Court next month.
Elder, now 23, admitted to stabbing Cerciello with an 11-inch knife on a dark street, but he and Natale-Hjorth testified they were jumped from behind by Cerciello and his partner, both in plain clothes, and did not know the men were police.
The prosecution’s main witness, Cerciello’s partner Andrea Varriale, testified that the officers approached the teens from the front and identified themselves as police before being attacked.
Defence lawyers for Elder and Natale-Hjorth have said the lower and appeals courts have both ignored evidence supporting the teenagers’ version of the events.