Rogue cops in Perugia

In 2007, Monica Napoleoni was the head of the “homicide squad” in Perugia (Umbria, Italy). Lorena Zugarini was a senior member of that unit. They were both active participants in the railroading of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito in the Meredith Kercher murder case. Napoleoni, as the capo, was the more vicious, but she wouldn’t have gotten far without help from her pack.

Last week, we heard about her again, from the Italian press (the translation is mine):

Three years and three months for the ex-chief of the homicide section of the Flying Squad of Perugia Monica Napoleoni, accused of having used her position to launch frivolous investigations of a (female) psychologist appointed by the Tribunal in the course of a dispute between herself and her ex-husband.

Her colleague Lorena Zugarini has also been sentenced, to three years and two months, for abusive access to the interforce database; and a year for the policewoman Stefania Squarta.

The judges have sentenced three other persons who helped Napoleoni in various capacities to a year and three months and six months and fifteen days, suspended. Three more defendants have been acquitted.

It’s a remarkably harsh sentence at first glance, suggesting – one hopes – that police corruption is being taken seriously at last. However, it is only the ruling of the trial court – the first of the three stages a criminal case must go through for the verdict and sentence to become final.

I wouldn’t be surprised if none of the defendants served any time at all, but still hope they get a conviction on their records. Unless they were taken in custody after this ruling, the defendants could remain free for years and then the case might get dismissed if the statutory time limitations expire.

Indeed, it took a little less than eight years from the crime to the first-stage verdict. It all happened in November 2012, as CBS news reported in 2013. In 2012, Monica Napoleoni tried to wrest custody of their son from her ex, a lawyer. The court appointed a psychologist, a young woman. She recommended that the father keep custody of the son. Then, one day in November, the psychologist…

…discovered that the four tires on her mother’s car were slashed and a note, written in blue crayon on the hood, read, “Bitch, so you’ll learn not to take children away from their mothers.” A phallic symbol was also drawn on the car hood.

And the next day, the father, Napoleoni’s ex, …

…came home to find “You must die” and “Pedophile” spray-painted on his house.

A lawyer, he called the police. The cops figured out that the only connection between the two victims was that custody case. I’m not sure if that’s how the investigation into Napoleoni’s shenanigans began, but it seems very likely. Her “frivolous investigations” had happened just days earlier:

Prosecutors say “hundreds of questions” were put into the internal police computer concerning the psychologist. The questions were about the properties she owned, the accounts she maintained, the type of car she drove, and the number on her license plates. The inquiries were made on November 14 and 16, 2012 – just days before the disturbing incidents directed first at the psychologist and then the former spouse.

In other words, the rogue cops logged into some “interforce” database to get as much info as possible on the psychologist and the lawyer. They used it to locate the former’s car (her mother’s car, actually, which they defaced and whose tires they slashed) and the latter’s house (which they sprayed with “pedophile” graffiti). Did they plan to go further than that? No word on this yet.

A bunch of vindictive but not particularly bright small-town cops here, a type familiar from not particularly good American movies and their international copycats. Also, pretty simple-minded folks for an “elite homicide squad” – but what a team spirit!

Back in 2014, Nick Richardson of the LRB complained in the Guardian about the innocentisti misrepresenting Monica Napoleoni as a “vindictive bully.” Guess what? They got it exactly right, then as now.

Another familiar face from this latest twist is Francesco Maresca, who defended the policewoman sentenced to just one year. Maresca acted as the Kercher family’s lawyer throughout the Knox-Sollecito case. He was one of the greatest villains in that story.

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