Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder

AFP/The Local
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Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder
"Always with us": mourners carry a photo of murdered officer Rega at his funeral. Photo: Eliano Imperato/AFP

An Italian judge has set a date for the fast-tracked trial of two US teenagers charged with killing a police officer during a botched drug deal in Rome.


The trial date, February 26, has been set unusually quickly by the standards of the Italian justice system, after a judge accepted the Rome prosecutor's request for an 'immediate' trial, bypassing the preliminary hearing stage.

The violent killing of officer Mario Cerciello Rega, who was in plain clothes when he was stabbed to death on July 26, sparked a national outcry. 

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On Thursday, Judge Chiara Gallo set a February 26 trial date in the case against Finnegan Elder, 19, and Gabriel Natale Hjorth, 18, who are being held in a Rome jail.

Both are facing charges of voluntary manslaughter, resisting arrest, attempted extortion and assault, according to Italian media reports.

Police have said that Elder confessed to stabbing Cerciello Rega, 35, with a combat knife.

Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Cerciello Rega and his partner intercepted the teens after an intermediary on a drug deal reported them to the police for stealing his bag after they were sold aspirin instead of cocaine.

Police tracked the teens to their four-star hotel after the attack, where they found a large knife hidden in the false ceiling of their room.

The weapon used in the attack on Cerciello, which has an 18-centimetre blade, was brought over from the US.
"Having a knife is not unusual for a kid of his age in our neighbourhood," Elder's mother has previously said.
Many questions remain about the events of that night, but on Tuesday Italy's La Repubblica newspaper published leaked, intercepted statements from Elder in prison saying the teens knew that Cerciello Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, were police as they had identified themselves as such.




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