Trial date set for US teens over Italian police murder

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.

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

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. 

READ ALSO: Stabbed 11 times with a US Marine knife: Prosecutors reveal how Italian police officer was murdered

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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Italian cafe owner fined €1,000 for ‘overpriced’ €2 espresso

Baristas have spoken out against ‘outdated’ rules after one café owner in Florence got a €1,000 fine over his coffee pricing.

Italian cafe owner fined €1,000 for 'overpriced' €2 espresso

Award-winning barista and trainer Francesco Sanapo, owner of the Ditta Artiginale cafe in Florence, was reportedly hit with the steep fine after a patron reported him to the local police.

The customer filed a complaint because they were upset at unexpectedly having to fork out €2 for a decaffeinated espresso, reported local news site Firenze Today.

Single-shot espressos typically cost €1 or less in Italy. Ditta Artigianale said its coffee comes from a small plantation in Mexico and that decaffeinated coffee requires complex extraction techniques that are expensive, hence the two-euro charge.

The fine however wasn’t due to the espresso’s high price, but because of a rule that requires cafés in Italy to display their prices behind the counter or in a menu.

Because Ditta Artiginale only publishes some of its prices in physical form, listing others in only an online menu accessed via a QR code, police reportedly said the owner failed to comply with Italian law.

Sanapo asked his followers for help in fighting the fine, calling the law “outdated” in a video uploaded to Facebook on Saturday, 

“They fined me because they paid two euros for my espresso. This can’t go through, it can’t happen. Help me!!!” the message accompanying the video reads.

“I’m not one to use social media to complain, but this time they have touched a nerve with something that is too important to me and to the entire hospitality industry and particularly the coffee/café world.”

In a subsequent video published on Monday, Sanapo said he didn’t take issue so much with the fine in itself, which he said he would pay, but with Italy’s fixation on having access to cheap coffee at the expense of good quality.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

“Think about it: with one euro you cannot pay a sustainable wage to those who produce coffee, you can’t pay for the professionalism of those who are trained to a high level in hospitality. With one euro we generate poverty throughout the supply chain, we create illegal jobs or workers who are underpaid even when all goes well. A one euro cup of coffee means using poor quality products,” he told the Repubblica news daily.

Sanapo’s peers in the Italian coffee industry have expressed solidarity with his situation.

“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues at Ditta Artigianale. This is 2022 but in Italy you still can’t talk about quality when it comes to coffee, in this sector quality is not appreciated: this is very serious,” Serena Nobili from Dini Caffe reportedly said.

“To disregard the quality of a product where there is a lot of work behind it is something that I am deeply saddened by. Quality is paid for and it is to everyone’s benefit,” echoed Alessandro Vittorio Sorani, president of the small business association Confartigianato Imprese, according to Firenze Today.