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Two US students sentenced to life for killing Italian police officer

Two US students sentenced to life for killing Italian police officer

dpa
Rome
Two US students were handed life sentences on Wednesday over the murder of an Italian police officer during a 2019 drug sting gone wrong, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 20, had been found guilty by an Italian court in the murder of 35-year-old Carabinieri police officer Mario Cerciello Rega.
The sentences were handed out following 13 hours of deliberations, according to ANSA.
The pair were indicted on charges of homicide, attempted extortion, assault of the victim’s police partner, resisting a public official and carrying a knife without just cause.
According to prosecutors, on July 26, 2019 Cerciello Rega and his partner confronted the US pair in Rome as part of a plain clothes operation to retrieve a stolen backpack.
Natale-Hjorth and Elder, both teenagers at the time, allegedly stole a backpack from a drug middleman who gave them aspirin instead of cocaine. They later demanded money and real cocaine to return the item.
The defence contended that the pair acted in self-defence, believing the two police officers were in fact criminals, while prosecutors said the Americans headed to the sting armed and with the aim to kill.
Elder had admitted stabbing Cerciello Rega 11 times, while Natale-Hjorth was convicted of helping him hide the weapon in their hotel room. Under Italian law, accomplices can also be charged with murder.
Defence lawyers for both US men vowed to appeal the sentences.
“This sentence is a disgrace for Italy, with judges who refuse to see what the investigation and the process revealed. I’ve never seen such a shameful thing,” Elder’s lawyer, Renato Borzone was cited as saying.

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