Latest Berlusconi appeal struck down


ROME -- The latest appeal from the legal team of Italian media tycoon and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was rejected Monday, according to the penal court hearing the corruption trial.

The rejection of the technical appeal means that the case involving Berlusconi's alleged payment of $800,000 to British lawyer David Mills so that he would lie for him in court may not be appealed again on procedural grounds.

The trial began in November and already has been delayed on procedural grounds twice -- to entertain motions to have the judge thrown out. It also suffered delays when Berlusconi became ill and because of a lawyers' strike.

If the trial continues to face delays, it could put the prosecutors' case in jeopardy, as some of the key charges will begin to expire under statute of limitations rules in early 2008. Berlusconi and Mills each face up to eight years in prison.

Berlusconi has been dogged by legal troubles since the early 1990s but has never been convicted of any charge, in many cases because of statute of limitations issues.

With the appeal out of the way, the trial is slated to restart in July.