Will American Cop-Killing Kids in Italy Go Free?

Paolo Manzo/NurPhoto/Getty

ROME—It has been nearly six months since two American teens on a wild weekend in Rome allegedly killed a 35-year-old police officer, and a court date for their murder trial has finally been set. On Feb. 26, 2020, Finnegan Elder and Gabe Natale Hjorth will be joint defendants in a trial that, until this week, looked like it might swing their way on the basis of self-defense. 

Elder, 19, is accused of plunging a 7-inch military grade knife he carried with him from the U.S. into officer Mario Cerciello Rega while Gabe Natale Hjorth, 18, battled with Rega’s partner Andrea Varriale. Both of the policemen were working undercover. Neither of them were carrying weapons or badges. They did not have backup protection, and they were acting on what seems like a favor to a man who set the Americans up with a local pusher.  

The chief line of defense for Elder, who police say confessed to the crime, has always been that neither of the officers identified themselves as police when they arrived for a prearranged meeting to exchange the pusher’s backpack, which the boys stole, for around $ 80, which the Americans had paid to the pusher for some bad cocaine. The main defense for Natale Hjorth has been that he had no idea Elder had a knife, though reports that his fingerprints are on the ceiling panel in the hotel room the young men shared—and where the knife was found—seem to call that into question.

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