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Italian court acquits Berlusconi in sex case

MILAN (AP) - An Italian appeals court on Friday acquitted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a sex-for-hire case, reversing a lower court conviction that had carried a seven-year prison sentence and a lifetime ban on holding political office.

The case has grabbed global attention, offering an unseemly peek into the 77-year-old three-time premier's private life, with witness testimony revealing raunchy, sex-fueled bunga-bunga parties at his private villa attended by a bevy of aspiring showgirls.

The prosecution alleged that Berlusconi had paid for sex with an underage prostitute, a Moroccan named Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, and then using his influence to cover it up.

He denied the charges, and both he and el-Mahroug, who was 17 when she frequented Berlusconi's villa, denied ever having had sex.

The acquittal was announced just as Berlusconi was leaving a facility for Alzheimer's patients where he is performing community service for a separate conviction on a tax fraud charge. That is the only case finalized against Berlusconi, who has faced dozens of trials, mostly for his business dealings.

Berlusconi thrust his hand from a car as he was being driven away from facility and a political supporter waiting at the gate grabbed his hand and shook it. The window was then rolled up and the media mogul waved as he was driven away.

Berlusconi's defense lawyer, Franco Coppi, said the decision "goes beyond the rosiest predictions," adding that he would have been satisfied with an acquittal for lack of evidence. But the court went further, saying that no crimes had been committed.

While the court has 90 days to issue its reasoning, Coppi said the decision to acquit for paying an underage prostitute for sex could have been due to Berlusconi's testimony that he believed el-Mahroug was over 18.

The case may not end there, however. Prosecutors can challenge Friday's acquittal in Italy's highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation.

Berlusconi also is on trial in Naples accused of political corruption, and under investigation in Milan accused of witness-tampering in the sex-for-hire trial and in another related case involving three aides who were convicted of procuring prostitutes for his parties.

Berlusconi remains influential on the Italian political scene as head of his Forza Italia party, despite the tax fraud conviction's ban on holding political office for two years that led the Senate to yank his seat.

The verdict was widely lauded by political backers. One of Berlusconi's staunchest, lawmaker Renato Brunetta, hailed "Berlusconi innocent!!!" on Twitter.

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billcdaly July 18 2014 at 10:44 AM

Seems like in Italy as here, there are 2 systems of justice; one for the rich and connected, the other for the rest of us.

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1 reply
cdic67225 billcdaly July 19 2014 at 12:00 AM

Seems that in Italy they want to take somebody down every time he or she is doing something good for the Country. There was no case, no proofs. They built something out of thin air. Another politician who wants to buy a bank is not even invetigated and nobody talks about it......Go figure.

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johnjpal8 July 18 2014 at 11:56 AM

what a surprise ,a wealthy political leader is innocent . what a joke. this is another black eye for democratic justice well one thing about him ,he did not send troops to fight and die for oil and religious superiority

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kentblackdog July 18 2014 at 12:51 PM

The FIX was in, from the beginning----------------it is the way of the rich

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now and then July 18 2014 at 1:02 PM

Italian justice is quite evident as in another case that came up for the third time..that of Amanda Knox and Sollecito. Regardless of Berlusconi here, he did major bunga bunga to the Italian economy for a long time to come.

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don54321 July 18 2014 at 1:26 PM

corruption is everywhere. He is no more innocent than the man in the moon.

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fgulli720 July 18 2014 at 5:52 PM

How does he do it. My god the things money can buy you. I knew Italy was corrupt but wow is it corrupt.

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1 reply
ranger197172 fgulli720 July 19 2014 at 6:16 AM

You talk about Italy, how about our own govt ? When was the last time they represented the people in the manner they want ?

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Mike July 18 2014 at 3:43 PM

How much did this cost him?

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theomegaman72 July 18 2014 at 2:25 PM

Was Miss Bum Bum at the Bunga Bunga ?

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deviantstep July 18 2014 at 10:19 PM

Small, emasculated men have been after Berlusconi for years. They could not stand the fact that there is a real man left somewhere in the world. Fortunately, the appeals court saw that Berlusconi is guilty only of being a potent man. There IS justice, even in Italy. Bring on the BUNGA BUNGA, BABY!

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Loneagle July 18 2014 at 1:14 PM

He obviously has very influential friends in high places...

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3 replies
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