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Complaints. Half a million euros in reparation of damages asked to La Voce delle Voci

The newspaper from Campania has been cited by a magistrate, and is now threatened with foreclosure. The next hearing on February, 25th

The Court of Rome will hold on February, 25th the first hearing of the civil case filed by the chief prosecutor of Grosseto, Mr Franco Verusio, against the daily La Voce delle Voci, for an article published by the monthly paper in 2012 in which the past participation of the magistrate as honorary president of the Studies Center for European Integration, Rights and Freedoms was recounted.

THE STUDY CENTRE UNDER INVESTIGATION – In 2011 the organization ended up in the papers of the investigation into the so-called “P3”, a secret society that, according to the findings of the investigators, was devoted to steer contracts and public tenders. According to inquiring magistrates working on the case, the men of the P3 “had developed a dense network of relations amongst the judiciary, politics and entrepreneurs, to be exploited for the secret purposes of the society, also thanks to the promotion of conventions and study meetings carried out through the Studies Center for European Integration, Rights and Freedoms.”

THE COMPLAINT – However, placing the prosecutor’s name near the Studies Centre as the monthly paper has done, was not to the liking of Mr Verusio, who also leads the magistrates who are investigating the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia. For this reason, Mr Verusio has instructed his lawyers to file a summons against the newspaper (the judiciary mishaps of which have been covered recently by Ossigeno).

The summons calls for Ms Rita Pennarola, co-director of the monthly magazine and author of the article, and for the director, Mr Andrea Cinquegrani, the association Voce delle Voci, and the publisher (Cooperativa Comunica), claiming 430 thousand euros for compensation, and a further 70 thousand euros for reparations.

THE ARTICLE OF LA VOCE – The article that is the object of the citation was published in April 2012 by La Voce, with the title “The Phantom of the P3” (Il fantasma della P3). The issue was relative to the sinking of the Costa Concordia, which occurred three months earlier, and in which – according to the newspaper – “names, facts and impressive details, starting with the investigation”, were being unearthed.

Besides offering an alternative view of the shipwreck near the island of Giglio, differing from that given by the prosecutor of Grosseto, the article by Ms Pennarola dwelt on the fact that the name of Mr Verusio, who was leading the investigation, “appeared in the papers of the investigation on the P3” because of his participation in the Studies Centre. Moreover, the article explicitly specified that, in that case, the prosecutor Mr Verusio had never been under investigation.

“Of course – Ms Pennarola tells Ossigeno – there are no legal consequences for him, but the fact could have created some embarrassment for the investigation on the shipwreck.”

Why? “Assuming that Mr Verusio knew nothing about the real activities of the Studies Centre, he could have inquired before accepting the position of president. A position from which he resigned in May 2010, as he himself writes in the citation. That is, only a few weeks before the raid that after lengthy investigations and wiretaps has placed in handcuffs some leading exponents of the Studies Centre. Well, if I were the family of those who lost their lives in the sinking of the Costa Concordia, I would hope that the prosecutor entrusted with the investigation had nothing to do with a partnership whose aim, according to the indictment, is to divert the course of justice”.

THE CITATION – The magistrate’s reply came in February 2013, requesting damage reparations. The citation document does not deny that Mr Verusio played a role in the Studies Centre in the past, but emphasizes the alienation of the public magistrate from the investigation on the P3. As the lawyers reported in the paper, Mr Verusio assumed the office of president in 2008, “having been assured that the title was an honorary one, which would not entail commitments of any kind, and believing the association’s goals to be worthy”, up until May 2010, when he decided to leave, having become “aware of the fact that some people of the association were involved in the investigation on the so called P3.”

According to Mr Verusio’s legal representatives, “it’s all an issue of clumsy journalistic sensationalism that seeks to exploit the clamor of the catastrophe of the Giglio, combining the name of the Chief Prosecutor of the territorial jurisdiction with an inquiry to which Mr Verusio is completely alien.”

Furthermore, always according to Mr Verusio’s legal representatives, the article, which would have had a clear “defamatory intent”, would have “harmed the personal image, and produced moral and existential damages” to their client. And as the citation concludes, “how the community may be interested in having full knowledge of Mr Verusio’s participation as honorary president of the Studies Center for European Integration, Rights and Freedoms, is, quite frankly, still a mystery”.

Another objection to which the newspaper will have to respond at the next hearing, when Ms Pennarola will ask the court to be heard. Next to her there will be, among others, the Senator Mr Elio Lannutti, who had used the article of La Voce in an act of inspection into the ministries of Justice and the Interior.


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