Italy's 'Ruby the Heartstealer' Underage Film Sends Boyfriend to Prison

Karima el-Mahroug, a.k.a. Ruby the Heartstealer
Karima el-Mahroug, a.k.a. Ruby the Heartstealer
 Getty Images

ROME – Italian nightclub owner Luca Risso has been sentenced to a year in jail for possessing and selling fetish films of his then-underage girlfriend -- the erotic dancer best known as Ruby the Heartstealer, a central figure in the sex and abuse of power trial of Italian media mogul and former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

Risso and Karima el-Mahroug -- Ruby the Heartstealer’s real name -- are parents of the young girl. They made headlines earlier this month when el-Mahrough was accused of being paid €5,000 ($6,400) to have sex with Berlusconi when she was 17 and he was 73 (they are now 20 and 76, respectively). In an emotional press conference held on the steps of the courthouse where Berlusconi’s trial was taking place, el-Mahrough insisted she should be allowed to testify in the trial so that she can clear her name so her young daughter can grow up “proud of her mother.”

“I am not a prostitute!” she said several times through tears.

The latest case involving Risso does not directly contradict that claim, but hardly strengthens her case. A judge in Genoa sentenced Risso to one year in jail for possession and distribution of child pornography.

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But there’s a twist: the alleged “fetish” videos are of el-Mahrough when she was 17, the same period when she allegedly met Berlusconi. It is not clear if el-Mahrough gave Risso permission to show the videos, which were filmed in Risso’s nightclub. Risso claims he did not know el-Mahrough was a minor when the videos were made.

Prosecutor Luca Scorza wanted a harsher penalty: he asked for four years and eight months behind bars.

Berlusconi is currently on trial for paying the then-underage el-Mahrough for sex and then for abuse of power in lying to law enforcement officials to get her off the hook on a minor theft charge. The trial has been suspended until mid-May as judges consider whether they should change the venue from Milan to the nearby city of Brescia. Berlusconi claims he cannot get a fair trial in Milan, his hometown.

Berlusconi’s lawyers are also appealing two previous convictions: one for four years on tax evasion charges in relation to the Mediaset cinema and television giant he controls, and the second for a year in a wire-tapping case connected to Il Giornale, the Milan newspaper he controls.

The developments come as Berlusconi has vowed to support the fragile efforts of center-left lawmaker Enrico Letta to form a new government, bringing the country’s two-month-old political crisis to an end. Letta is the nephew of Gianni Letta, a key Berlusconi political lieutenant.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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