Italy: Officers found guilty for teenager's death in Ferrara (1)

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On 6 July 2009, four flying squad police officers were found guilty and sentenced to three years and six months for the manslaughter of 18-year-old Federico Aldrovandi during a violent early morning encounter in Ferrara when he was returning from a night out with his friends in Bologna on 25 September 2005. The lawyers representing officers Enzo Pontani, Luca Pollastri, Monica Segatto and Paolo Forlani have stated that they will appeal the sentence, which was received by Aldrovandi's mother as "correct, logical" and "the only possible sentence", with the judge of the Ferrara court largely accepting the arguments presented by the prosecution, which had requested sentences of three years and eight months. The basis for this request was that the officers were guilty of "excesses" and acting "imprudently" with a numerical advantage, using truncheon blows against several parts of the victim's body, beating him to floor him and subsequently compressing his thorax as he was struggling to breathe, causing him to suffocate. They also failed to assist him when he cried for help. The defence lawyers insisted that the death was drug-related (traces of ketamine and morphine were found in his blood that were deemed insignificant to explain the death) and that the youth had attacked them. The flying squad officers claim to have intervened after a call was received from inhabitants in Via dell'Ippodromo reporting that a young man was shouting in the street.

From the very start, the case was highly controversial, including a delay of several months before an investigation was opened, until after Aldrovandi's mother, Patrizia Moretti, set up a blog explaining her experience and doubts about what had happened, and a picture of the youth's battered body was published in Liberazione newspaper. The police had initially explained the incident away as resulting from the youth feeling ill and harming himself by banging his head against lamp-posts as he returned home from a night out during which he had consumed drugs, in which the flying squad's role was limited to trying to assist and calm him down. Witness statements and a call by one of the officers to the emergency services once Aldrovandi had lost consciousness, indicate that the youth was forcefully beaten. On the morning of the death, his parents were unable to see their son's body or find out that he had died for three hours after they had spoken to the police, who answered when they called his mobile phone at 8 a.m. after seeing that he had not returned home. A coroner only appeared on the scene three hours after the death (at around 5 a.m.), two broken truncheons were not available for the investigating forensics police at first, only to re-appear after having been cleaned on the following day. On the first occasion in which his having received blows was admitted, prior to the autopsy or investigation, the head public prosecutor argued that Federico "had not died as a result of blows". Investigations were initially firmly focussed on a drug trail, targeting the social centre in Bologna where Federico and his friends had been out dancing and the activity of prosecuting magistrate Maria Emanuela Guerra [who withdrew from the case after being accused of impartiality] was described by Patrizia Moretti as "one-track investigations aimed at establishing conditions to be able to certify 'death by drugs' in spite of expert testimony heard by the judge for preliminary investigations that pointed elsewhere", and as especially targeting his friends.

Il manifesto, 7.7.2009
Corriere della Sera 7.7.2009
The Aldrovandi family's blog:

Previous Statewatch coverage

Italy: Manslaughter trial for officers in Aldrovandi death, Statewatch, vol. 18 no. 1, January-March 2008
Italy: Police officers investigated over Ferrara death, Statewatch, vol. 16 no. 1, January-February 2006
Italy: Teenager beaten to death by police in Ferrara?, Statewatch news online, January 2006

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