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Italian prosecutor seeks life for two Americans charged in fatal stabbing of officer

Maria Sabina Calabretta asked the court to find Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, guilty and to impose Italy’s maximum sentence.
Image: Finnegan Lee Elder
Finnegan Lee Elder arrives for a hearing in the trial where he is accused of slaying the Carabinieri paramilitary police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, on March 6, 2021, in Rome, Italy.Alessandra Tarantino / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

ROME — An Italian prosecutor on Saturday requested life in prison for two young American men charged with slaying an Italian police officer in central Rome.

Prosecutor Maria Sabina Calabretta asked the court to find the two defendants — Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20 — guilty and to impose Italy’s maximum sentence for the July 26, 2019, stabbing death of Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega. Calabretta called the attack “disproportionate and deadly.”

The defense will make its closing arguments beginning March 18, before the court decides the verdict and sentence.

The two Americans were on vacation in Rome when they were confronted by a pair of plainclothes Carabinieri officers at what the pair believed was going to be a meeting with the go-between in a cocaine deal that had gone bad.

Elder has claimed self-defense, testifing this month that he stabbed the victim because he feared he was being strangled by a thug.

Cerciello Rega, 35, and his partner had been assigned to respond to what prosecutors allege was a small-scale extortion attempt by the Americans, after the friends had paid for cocaine that they did not receive. In reprisal, the Americans snatched the go-between’s knapsack with his phone inside and set up a rendezvous to exchange it for the 80 euros ($96) they had lost in the bad drug deal.

Cerciello Rega’s partner, Andrea Varriale, testified that he tried to stop blood pouring out like a “fountain” from his partner. The slain officer, who was unarmed, was stabbed 11 times.

Varriale has also testified that he heard his partner cry out “Carabinieri!” as Elder and the slain officer struggled in the street.

But Elder told the court he heard no such cry of identification.