Amer­i­can teen’s lawyer in Italy drops bid for re­lease

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By GI­ADA ZAMPANO

ROME — The lawyer for one of two Amer­i­can teenagers be­ing held in the slay­ing of an Ital­ian po­lice of­fi­cer said Satur­day that he has dropped a re­quest for his client to be re­leased.

Fin­negan Lee Elder’s lawyer, Re­nato Bor­zone, said in a state­ment that the de­fense still needs more time to get a full pic­ture of what hap­pened. He added that he is still work­ing to clar­ify “key pas­sages” in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Elder and his friend, Gabriel Natale-Hjorth who is also in cus­tody, were jailed in Rome in July as au­thor­i­ties in­ves­ti­gate their al­leged roles in the fa­tal stabbing of Ital­ian po­lice of­fi­cer Mario Cer­ciello Rega. Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors say Elder con­fessed knif­ing the of­fi­cer dur­ing a scuf­fle.

A hear­ing on Natale-Hjorth’s pe­ti­tion for re­lease will be held on Sept. 16.

In a fam­ily state­ment is­sued on Fri­day, Elder’s mother Leah said “she

has been grate­ful to have been able to see her son” in Rome in the past two days and sent her thoughts to Cer­ciello Rega’s fam­ily.

“Finn is try­ing to stay hope­ful but has suf­fered from se­vere de­pres­sion since the in­ci­dent,” the fam­ily said. “While in prison he has seen the way the me­dia has por­trayed him and the cir­cum­stances of the case and it has been dif­fi­cult to hear the facts un­fairly mis­rep­re­sented.”

Cer­ciello Rega was stabbed to death while he was investigat­ing with a col­league an al­leged drug deal gone wrong in­volv­ing the two teens.

Pros­e­cu­tors con­tend that Elder stabbed Cer­ciello Rega while Natale-Hjorth scuf­fled with the of­fi­cer’s part­ner dur­ing a rendezvous or­ga­nized by the teens to ob­tain money and co­caine in ex­change for a back­pack they had snatched.

The back­pack be­longed to an Ital­ian man sus­pected of be­ing an in­ter­me­di­ary in the drug deal, who called the Cara­binieri ask­ing them to in­ter­vene.

Both teens have told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that they didn’t know that the two of­fi­cers were Cara­binieri as they were in plain­clothes and didn’t iden­tify them­selves. But their ver­sion con­tra­dicts that of Cer­ciello Rega’s part­ner, who said they both showed their badges when they con­fronted the teens.

Elder’s U.S. at­tor­neys said in a sep­a­rate state­ment Fri­day that “the boys’ ver­sion of what hap­pened that night has gained sup­port from the ob­jec­tive in­ci­dent and has be­come the only ver­sion that makes sense.”

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