Italian Prosecutors Request Fast-Track for Silvio Berlusconi Trial

Italy’s media tycoon turned prime minister faces trial for paying for sex with a minor.


ROME -- Italy's media tycoon turned prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, will be facing a trial for abuse of power and paying for sex with a minor after prosecutors on Wednesday officially filed charges.

If found guilty, on both charges, Berlusconi could face up to 15 years behind bars. But first, a Milan judge must determine whether the case made by prosecutors Wednesday has merit.

Prosecutors have requested a fast-track trial, which will limit the arguments on both sides but also make it less likely that the statute of limitations will expire before a decision can be made.

Judge Cristina di Censo will have three options: she can grant the request for the fast-track trial; she can call for a deeper investigation into whether any wrong doing actually took place; or she can decide that her court does not have jurisdiction. That last is the tact Berlusconi's lawyers are taking, charging that the crimes are alleged to have taken place in Rome and Sardinia and not in Milan and that, in any case, the Milan court does not have the authority to try a prime minister.

The charges are related to the relationship between the 74-year-old Berlusconi, who controls broadcast and cinema giant Mediaset, and a Moroccan-born cabaret dancer named Karima el Mahrough, best known by her stage name "Ruby," who was just 17 when she met Berlusconi. Prosecutors charge that the two had sexual relations for money and that Berlusconi tried to use his influence to illegally have el Mahrough released from prison, where she was being held on charges of theft.

If Judge di Censo rules that case has merit the trial could start within a month, though the Italian media reports that a mid-year trial date is more likely. The judge will make a decision within five working days.