Delayed Berlusconi trial to restart March 13


ROME -- The corruption trial of media mogul and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will restart March 13 after a court threw out a motion Tuesday to have the trial's judge removed.

The much-heralded case already has been delayed four times since November -- twice to hear motions to have Judge Edoardo D'Avossa removed, once due to a lawyers' strike and once after Berlusconi fainted during a rally.

Berlusconi's lawyers had been seeking a fifth delay, which would have been granted if D'Avossa had been thrown off the case. The mogul's legal team claimed that the judge's previous oversight of cases involving Berlusconi's Mediaset represented a conflict of interest. If D'Avossa had been removed, the trial could have been delayed for months as a new judge was selected and then caught up on developments.

The denial of the motion meant that Berlusconi was fined €1,000 ($1,310) for delaying proceedings, a strictly symbolic amount for a tycoon with an estimated net worth north of €12 billion ($15.7 billion).

More importantly, it means that Berlusconi will likely appear in court to answer charges for the first time in nearly two decades of legal problems during which he has never been convicted of any significant charge and has always maintained his innocence.

In the past, Berlusconi's defense has sought to delay cases as much as possible, often until the statute of limitations ran out. With the most recent developments, that will not be a possibility in this case.

Berlusconi faces charges that he paid British lawyer David Miles to lie for him and that he used illegal accounting methods to pocket millions in royalties for films to which Mediaset owned the rights.