Friday, April 16, 2010

Long Running True Prosecution to End in Italy?

There is an odd story on the SAFECORNER blog: http://safecorner.savingantiquities.org/2010/04/charges-against-true-and-hecht-to-be.html

It states,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Charges against True and Hecht to be dropped

Sources close to the case have confirmed that Marion True's and Bob Hecht's conspiracy trial in Rome will not end by October 2010. At that time, further prosecution will be barred by a statute of limitations; the case will be dismissed and charges dropped.

As an American lawyer, I find it quite strange that the statute of limitations can run AFTER a case is filed. In contrast, in the U.S. the limitations period typically runs UNTIL a case is filed. See http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Statute+of+Limitations

Some months ago, I supported the call of a prominent Italian-American Magazine that True be freed. http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/11/italian-american-magazine-calls-for-end.html

In any event, at that time, I also suggested that a resolution may be engineered to coincide with the State Department's consideration of a renewal of the current MOU with Italy. If the SAFECORNER blog is to believed, my prediction about True would seem to have come true already.

5 comments:

culturalpropertylaw said...

I noticed that too when I read the article. In New Mexico, we have requirements that criminal cases go to trial within a certain amount of time, and limited extensions can be granted. These are statutes meant to enforce the right to a speedy trial. I am guessing that they don't mean statute of limitations on the charging of a crime (which is typically how the term would be used in the U.S.), but instead a statute restricting how long a case can be pending before trial. I know nothing about Italian law but that's my guess.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks Kimberly, but that does not fit exactly either. Here, a trial started a long, long time ago, but there has been no verdict. Perhaps, Italy has something akin to a statute of limitations based on when a verdict is rendered. I have to admit Italian law is a mystery to me. I wonder if there are any Italian lawyers out there who can explain further.

One does wonder, however, about all the time, effort, money (and heartache for the defendants) that has already been expended along the way. One would think the Italian prosecutor was capable of speeding it up if he wanted, and the the public interest would be to have a decision on the merits. .

Are there other factors at work? As I mentioned, assuming this story is accurate, any dismissal will be timed so there is a resolution before the Italian MOU must be renewed in Jan. 2011. Perhaps, that is really what this is all about after all.

Best regards,

Peter Tompa

John Muccigrosso said...

Google is your friend:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Code_of_Criminal_Procedure#Statute_of_limitations

And remember that True still faces criminal charges:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aCEDLuFTFfJ4

This article rather clearly explains that part of the motivation for dropping the suit is the Getty's restitution of 40 items to Italy:

``We're withdrawing the civil suits for those 40 works,'' Rutelli told reporters at his office in Rome, where he displayed slides of the statues, pots and frescoes the Getty will ship at its own expense from Los Angeles. At least 22 of those objects were included in True's indictment of April 1, 2005.

Cultural Property Observer said...

John- Thanks for your find on Italian law. It now makes sense.

As to the other, are you mixing apples and oranges. As I read the SAFE story, this related to the criminal prosecution being dropped for failure to finish in time under the Italian Statute of Limitations and not the civil claims. Am I missing something?

Peter Tompa

John Muccigrosso said...

Peter,

You've now read what I've read.

The SAFE story is much less detailed than Bloomberg. (And I'd have that you would find the latter a more trsutworthy source anyway.)