Judge stays on Berlusconi graft case

Rome prosecutors launch new investigation

ROME -- Italian media tycoon-turned-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday received word that his bid to remove the judge from his corruption and graft case was denied, and that Roman prosecutors are opening up a new investigation into whether he used his influence to find work for would-be starlets.

The Italian Senate will decide by Aug. 1 whether or not Berlusconi and other top-level political figures deserve immunity from prosecution -- which would make the two measures against him moot. But prosecutors are moving forward as if the cases will be settled in court and not in parliament.

In the first case, Berlusconi has been accused of paying $600,000 to British lawyer David Mills to lie for him about royalties to Berlusconi's Mediaset. Berlusconi's lawyers sought to delay the case by having the judge removed for technical reasons. On Friday, that motion was denied.

In the newest case, prosecutors are studying wiretapped conversations between Berlusconi and RAI Fiction head Agostino Sacca, in which Berlusconi lobbied for acting roles for several aspiring actresses. Sacca lost his job over the case but was reinstated Tuesday.

Prosecutors will seek to determine whether Berlusconi was guilty of illegal influence peddling.