Italy's highest court granted retrial for Bay Area men in killing of Italian police officer

Gabriel Natale Hjorth's father told the I-Team, the ruling comes as a huge relief.

Dan Noyes Image
Thursday, March 16, 2023
Bay Area men granted retrial for killing of Italian police officer
Italy's highest court has granted a retrial for two Bay area men in the killing of the Italian police officer back in 2019.

ROME (KGO) -- Italy's highest court decided late Wednesday that two young men from the Bay Area convicted for killing a police officer in July 2019 should receive a new trial.

Leah and Ethan Elder filed into Italy's highest court, the Court of Cassation in Rome on Wednesday - nervous but hopeful that their son's conviction would be overturned.

RELATED: Appeal hearings begin for 2 Bay Area students sentenced for murder of Italian officer

Finnegan Elder's attorney, Roberto Capro, said he expected the court to grant a new trial "because there are too many flaws in the reconstruction of the night's events."

RELATED: Rome Police Stabbing: Step-by-step account of what happened in death of Italian officer allegedly by Bay Area's Finnegan Elder and Gabe Natale

For seven hours, the two defense teams argued, a key witness lied that police in plain clothes had identified themselves and shown badges. Elder and Gabriel Natale Hjorth testified that early morning in July 2019, they thought the men were thugs sent by a drug dealer who had taken their money.

While Natale-Hjorth grappled with one officer and ran away, the other officer pinned Elder to the ground; he took out this military-style knife and killed 35-year-old Mario Cerciello Rega. The officer had just returned to work from his honeymoon.

Both men received life in prison, but an appeals court lowered Elder's sentence to 24 years, and Natale-Hjorth's to 22 years. Now, the high court ordered a new trial.

Gabriel Natale Hjorth's father, Fabrizio, told us, the ruling comes as a huge relief: "I am relieved and elated that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did. Clearly, Gabe was innocent."

The I-Team's Dan Noyes has covered the case extensively and you can watch his Emmy Award-winning documentary "32 Seconds: A Deadly Night in Rome" here.

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