Italian Court to Decide Silvio Berlusconi's Punishment in April

42 REP Silvio Berlusconi H
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Freshly ousted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did not have much success in attempting to save his country's economy, and now he faces the similarly difficult task of rescuing his media empire.

The 77-year-old tycoon requested a year of community service rather than house arrest over his false accounting charges.

ROME -- A court in Milan revealed Tuesday that it will decide in April whether Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's billionaire media tycoon and three-time prime minister, will have to serve a year of time under house arrest or whether he will be able to perform a year of community service.

Berlusconi, who controls Italy's largest media company, Mediaset, was convicted in August of tax fraud and false accounting. Prosecutors asked for four years of jail time for the 77-year-old tycoon, but because of his age the sentence was reduced to a year of house arrest with the possibility of a request for community service. Berlusconi's lawyers requested the community service, and the court said Tuesday it would rule on whether to allow the community service option April 10, though deliberations could take several days after that.

Berlusconi is expected to attend the April 10 hearing to help make his case for community service.

Until then, he remains free. He is officially the head of the country's largest opposition political party, and may weigh in on the day-to-day affairs of Mediaset, which controls three national television networks in Italy and one in Spain, plus the Medusa cinema production and distribution house, and several print media outlets.

Berlusconi also faces charges of illegal wire taps, bribery, abuse of power and paying a minor for sex. All of those cases are in different states of prosecution or appeal.

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