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SEATTLE (AP) — Amanda Knox is facing what seemed like a distant worry when she was giving national television interviews and promoting her autobiography last year: the possibility of being returned to Italy to serve decades in prison for the death of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
 
Any decision on whether to extradite the 26-year-old from the U.S. is likely months away, at least. Experts have said it's unlikely that Italy's justice ministry would request Knox's extradition before the verdict is finalized by the country's high court.
 
If the conviction is upheld, a lengthy extradition process would likely ensue, with the U.S. State Department ultimately deciding whether to turn Knox back over to Italian authorities to finish serving her sentence.
 
Here's how that might play out.
 
___
 
EXTRADITION
 
Extradition is the process of one country surrendering to another country a person who has been accused or convicted of a crime. Under the terms of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Italy, the offense must be a crime in each country and punishable by more than one year in prison.
 
Any request to extradite Knox would go to the U.S. State Department, which would evaluate whether Italy has a sufficient case for seeking Knox's return. If so, the State Department would transfer the case to the Justice Department, which would represent the interests of the Italian government in seeking her arrest and transfer in U.S. District Court.
 
American courts have limited ability to review extradition requests from other countries, but rather ensure the extradition request meets basic legal requirements, said Mary Fan, a former U.S. federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Washington in Seattle.
 
"The U.S. courts don't sit in judgment of another nation's legal system," Fan said.
 
___
 
THE POLITICAL AND THE LEGAL
 
Fan suggested that any decision by the State Department on whether to return Knox to Italy is "a matter of both law and politics." From an American standpoint, the case at first seems to raise questions about double jeopardy — being tried twice for the same offense, as barred by the U.S. Constitution. Knox was first convicted, then acquitted, then, on Thursday, the initial conviction was reinstated.
 
Some observers have dismissed the double-jeopardy issue because Knox's acquittal was not finalized by Italy's highest court.
 
That said, creative defense lawyers might make an effort to fight extradition over concerns about the legal process or the validity of the conviction, Fan said, and those arguments could carry political weight too. "Many Americans are quite astonished by the ups and downs in this case, and it's the U.S. that will ultimately be making the call about whether to extradite," Fan said.
 
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a statement Thursday she was "very concerned and disappointed by this verdict."
 
"I will continue to closely monitor this case as it moves forward through the Italian legal system," Cantwell said.
 
Christopher Jenks, a former Army attorney who served as a State Department legal adviser and now teaches at Southern Methodist University's law school, said Italy has a low bar to clear in compiling a legally sufficient extradition request.
 
"There would be a political or policy decision to be made by the State Department, but it's got to be founded in law or in reason," he said.
 
Jenks noted that the extradition treaty works both ways.
 
"If the U.S. ever wants to have any chance of extraditing an Italian murder suspect who has allegedly killed people in the U.S.," he said, "you have to give to get."
 
___
 
HAS ITALY HAD ENOUGH?
 
There have been other high-profile tussles over whether Americans suspected of crimes in Italy would face justice there.
 
In 1998, a low- and fast-flying U.S. Marine jet sliced a cable supporting a gondola at a ski resort in the Italian Alps, killing 20 people. Many Italians wanted the pilot and crew tried in Italy, though NATO rules gave jurisdiction to the U.S. military. The pilot faced a court martial in the U.S. and was acquitted of negligent homicide charges.
 
Italian courts convicted — in absentia — 26 CIA and U.S. government employees in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of recruiting terrorists in Milan. One, a U.S. Air Force colonel, was pardoned last year on the grounds that it was unprecedented to try an officer of a NATO country for acts committed in Italy. Another, the former CIA base chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, has also requested a pardon. Lady was briefly held last summer in Panama based on an international arrest warrant issued by Italy, which has not yet formally requested his extradition.
 
"I suspect that the Italians feel there have been enough incidents of them not being able to prosecute Americans for crimes committed in Italy," Jenks wrote in an email.
Published in National News
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) - An appeals court in Florence on Thursday upheld the guilty verdict against U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition.
 
After nearly 12 hours of deliberations, the court reinstated the guilty verdict first handed down against Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in 2009. The verdict had been overturned in 2011 and the pair freed from prison, but Italy's supreme court vacated that decision and sent the case back for a third trial in Florence.
 
Sollecito, whose lawyers said they would appeal the verdict, was sentenced to 25 years. Reached by telephone, Knox's father, Curt Knox, said he had no comment.
 
While Sollecito was in court Thursday morning, he didn't return for the verdict, and the 26-year-old Knox was home in Seattle awaiting the decision with, in her own words, `'my heart in my throat."
 
Sollecito's lawyers said they were stunned and would take their appeal to Italy's top court.  "There isn't a shred of proof," said attorney Luca Maori said.
 
Presiding Judge Alessando Nencini ordered the 29-year-old Sollecito's passport revoked but made no requests for Knox's movements to be limited, saying she was "justifiably abroad."
 
Knox's defense team gave its last round of rebuttals earlier in the day, ending four months of arguments in Knox's and Sollecito's third trial for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in the Italian university town of Perugia.
 
Knox's lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova,  had told the court he was "serene" about the verdict because he believes the only conclusion from the files is "the innocence of Amanda Knox."
 
"It is not possible to convict a person because it is probable that she is guilty," Dalla Vedova said. "The penal code does not foresee probability. It foresees certainty."
 
Dalla Vedova evoked Dante, noting that the Florentine writer reserved the lower circle of hell for those who betrayed trust, as he asserted that police had done to Knox when they held her overnight for questioning without legal representation and without advising her that she was a suspect.
 
Knox had returned to Seattle after spending four years in jail before being acquitted in 2011. In an email to this court, Knox wrote that she feared a wrongful conviction.
 
She told Italian state TV in an interview earlier this month that she would wait for the verdict at her mother's house "with my heart in my throat."
 
Knox's absence didn't formally hurt her case since she was freed by a court and defendants in Italy are not required to appear at their trials. However, Nencini reacted sternly to her emailed statement, noting that defendants have a right to be heard if they appear in person.
 
Sollecito, on the other hand, had made frequent court appearances, always in a purple sweater, the color of the local Florentine soccer club. He was in court again Thursday morning, accompanied by his father and other relatives and said he would return for the verdict. But he didn't come for the verdict.
Published in National News
Tuesday, 08 October 2013 13:20

AB InBev loses court battle in Italy

PRAGUE (AP) - The state-owned Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar NP says an Italian court has banned its bitter rival Anheuser-Busch InBev from using the Budweiser trademark in that country in the latest ruling in their long legal battle over the brand name.

At the same time, Budvar says the Supreme Court allows the Czech brewer to return to the Italian market with its Budweiser Budvar lager in what Budvar director Jiri Bocek calls "a great victory."

The court's ruling means the end of two cases in which AB InBev challenged Budvar's Budweiser trademark in Italy and the right of its importers to use the names of Bud and Budweiser for selling Czech beer.

Budvar has been fighting for over a century with Anheuser-Busch over use of the Budweiser brand.

 

Published in Local News

   GIGLIO ISLAND, Italy (AP) — A complex system of pulleys and counterweights on Monday began pulling upright the Costa Concordia cruise ship from its side on a Tuscan reef where it capsized in 2012, an anxiously awaited operation of a kind that has never been attempted on such a huge liner.

   Engineer Sergio Girotto said the operation began at about 9 a.m. (0700GMT) Monday, three hours late.

   The delay was due to an early morning storm that pushed back a floating command room center from its position close to the wreckage. There, engineers using remote controls were guiding a synchronized leverage system of pulleys, counterweights and huge chains looped under the Concordia's carcass to delicately nudge the ship free from its rocky seabed perch just outside Giglio Island's harbor.

   The goal is to raise it from its side by 65 degrees to vertical, as a ship would normally be, for eventual towing.

   The operation, known in nautical parlance as parbuckling, is a proven method to raise capsized vessels.

   The USS Oklahoma was parbuckled by the U.S. military in 1943 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the 300-meter (1,000-foot), 115,000-ton Concordia has been described as the largest cruise ship ever to capsize and subsequently require the complex rotation.

   The Concordia crashed into a reef on a winter's night Jan. 13, 2012. Thirty-two people were killed after the captain steered the luxury liner too close to the rocky coastline of Giglio, part of a chain of islands in pristine waters.

   The reef sliced a 70 meter long (230 foot) gash into what is now the exposed side off the hull, letting seawater rush in. The resulting tilt was so drastic that many lifeboats couldn't be launched. Dozens of the 4,200 passengers and crew were plucked to safety by helicopters or jumped into the sea and swam to shore. Bodies of many of the dead were retrieved inside the ship, although two bodies were never found and might lie beneath the hulk.

   The Concordia's captain is on trial on the mainland for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. Capt. Francesco Schettino claims the reef wasn't on the nautical charts for the liner's weeklong Mediterranean cruise.

   Asked how long it would take for people on shore to see the ship making significant movement toward the vertical, Girotto said that "after a couple of hours, you should be able to see something visible from a distance."

   The first couple of hours will be critical, engineers predicted. Pieces of the granite seabed are embedded in the submerged side of the hull, which divers haven't been able to fully inspect.

   The entire operation should take between 10-12 hours.

   Parbuckling was supposed to begin before dawn, but daylight broke even before the barge carrying the engineers close to the ship could leave shore. After the storm blew away, seas were calm.

   Engineers have dismissed as a "remote" possibility the chance that the Concordia might break apart during rotation and no longer be sound enough to be towed to the mainland to be turned into scrap.

   Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., is picking up the tab for the parbuckling and its intricate preparation. The company puts the costs so far at 600 million euros ($800 million), though much of that will be passed onto its insurers.

_____

 

Project is at www.theparbucklingproject.com

Published in National News
Wednesday, 17 July 2013 06:22

Cruise ship captain hopes for plea deal.

The captain of the cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy is trying to work out a plea deal as testimony is about to begin in his trial in Grosseto, Italy.

But Francesco Schettino's  ttorney says he holds out little hope that the trial judge will allow a deal for Schettino to plead guilty in exchange for a three-year-five-month sentence. 

Schettino risks up to 20 years if found guilty of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing the shipwreck that claimed 32 lives.

 

Published in National News
ROME (AP) - Italy's highest criminal court has overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox in the slaying of her British roommate and ordered a new trial.

The Court of Cassation ruled Tuesday that an appeals court in Florence must re-hear the case against the American and her Italian-ex-boyfriend for the murder of 21 year old Meredith Kercher.

Kercher's body was found in November 2007 in her bedroom of the house she shared with Knox and other roommates in Perugia, an Italian university town where the two women were exchange students. Her throat had been slashed.

Prosecutors alleged Kercher was the victim of a drug-fueled sex game gone awry. Knox and Raffaele Sollecito denied wrongdoing. An Ivory Coast man, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the slaying in a separate proceeding and is serving a 16 year sentence.
Published in National News

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