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Retrial Ordered in Italy for 2 Bay Area Men Convicted of Killing Police Officer

Italy’s supreme court has ordered a new trial for two California men who were convicted of the murder of an Italian police officer during a sting operation gone wrong.

The Court of Cassation on Wednesday night threw out the guilty verdicts against Finnegan Lee Elder, now 23, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 22, who were convicted of the stabbing death of the 35-year-old caribiniere during a raid operation. civilian in Rome, where the two Americans were on vacation, in the summer of 2019.

The court will release the reasons for its decision in the coming weeks and will instruct an appeals court on what issues should be considered in a new trial.

Elder’s lawyer, Roberto Capra, expressed his satisfaction with the decision and said that a new trial would open the possibility of recalculating the sentence.

The two men, friends from Northern California, were sentenced to life in prison, the harshest sentence in Italy, at their initial trial in 2021. An appeals court upheld the verdict but reduced the sentence to 24 years for Elder and 22 years for Natale-Hjorth.

The defense has argued that the plainclothes carabinieri failed to identify themselves as law enforcement officers during an operation to recover the backpack the two Americans stole during a failed drug deal.

Carabinieri deputy brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, was stabbed 11 times. Elder claimed that he drew a knife in self-defense to free himself when the officer tried to choke him.

Natale-Hjorth testified that she struggled with Cerciello Rega’s partner and was unaware of the stabbing when she ran back to a hotel.