Archives for posts with tag: Enrico De Peppo

Rome, Feb 1972: Pietro Valpreda, Roberto Gargamelli and Emilio Bagnoli — and nine others (Piazza Fontana trial presided over by judge Orlando Falco)

The proceedings had been under way for only a few days before everything ground to a halt. The scene was the Court of Assizes in Rome and the trial, which opened on 23 February 1972, was that of the anarchists from the Circolo 22 Marzo, of Pietro Valpreda’s relations and, in his absence, the Nazi-fascist Stefano Delle Chiaie for giving perjured evidence on Mario Merlino’s behalf.

But the judges, however, soon realised that the matter was not within their competence. Prompted by some of the anarchists’ defence lawyers — Francesco Piscopo, Giuliano Spazzali, Placido La Torre and Rocco Ventre — court president Orlando Falco chose to rid himself of what had become a hot potato of a trial. Even the public prosecutor Vittorio Occorsio tried to pin the shortcomings and partiality of the investigation on his colleague, examining magistrate Ernesto Cudillo.

It was as though he wanted it forgotten that he had launched the investigations. It was he who had arranged the identification by taxi-driver Cornelio Rolandi. Again, it was he who — in the indictment presented to the courts, as if to salvage the only piece of evidence on which he had built his indictment — had denied the glaringly obvious.

Occorsio wrote:

What Rolandi claimed in the preliminary section of the identification document — ‘I was shown by the carabinieri in Milan a photograph that I was told must the person whom I should recognise’ — should be taken to mean that when Rolandi was shown Valpreda’s photograph at police headquarters, the taxi driver was asked to identify him — yes or no, of course — as the person he had carried in his taxi. Any inference in this connection regarding supposed and implicit solicitation of positive recognition is quite gratuitous.” And in order to hammer home this convoluted reasoning, he concluded: “Indeed if the word ‘should’ was used, the obligation implicit in that very term refers to the judicial burden of the act of identification rather to the results thereof.”

Faced with such untenable positions the Court in Rome switched everything to Milan on 6 March. The trial had returned, as judicial logic would have it, to the city where the massacre had occurred. But Milan prosecutor-general, Enrico De Peppo, was not having that. According to him, Milan could not offer the necessary neutrality in which to debate a matter of such delicacy. Furthermore — according to De Peppo — the city was virtually under the control of extra-parliamentary leftists eager to mount actions “designed to demonstrate — regardless of due process — the alleged innocence of Valpreda and the other co-accused.” Actions that might provoke a response from the far right. He applied to the Court of Cassation to have the case relocated again, and on 13 October the case was placed under the jurisdiction of the Catanzaro Court of Assizes.

But it did not begin immediately. It was not until 27 January 1975 that proceedings opened, proceedings that would find the anarchists — Pietro Valpreda, Emilio Bagnoli, Emilio, Roberto Gargamelli, Ivo Della Savia and Enrici Di Cola; Valpreda’s relations — Maddalena Valpreda, Ele Lovati, Rachele Torri and Olimpia Torri — in the dock beside the indescribable Mario Merlino, the Nazi-fascists: Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura, Stefano Delle Chiaie, Marco Pozzan and Piero Loredan di Volpato del Montello; fascists working for the secret services: Guido Giannettini and Stefano Serpieri, and SID officers: Gianadelio Maletti, Antonio Labruna and Gaetano Tanzilli.

Emilio Alessandrini (Milan magistrate)

Why this motley crew? The Catanzaro court combined two trials that led to irreconcilable results — the investigation by Occorsio and Cudillo and the later investigation by Milanese magistrates Gerard D’Ambrosio and Emilio Alessandrini. The latter case also relied on inquiries conducted by magistrates in Treviso and Padua and elsewhere — inquiries that had brought to light the part played by the fascists and secret services in the bombing strategy.

The first verdict was returned on 23 February 1979, nearly ten years after the attacks. Three life sentences — for Freda, Ventura and Giannettini, for the massacre and outrages. But Giannettini was the only one in court: Freda was on the run in Costa Rica and Ventura in Argentina. Maletti was sentenced to four years for procuring perjured testimony and Labruna and Tanzilli each got two years. Valpreda and Gargamelli were cleared of massacre, on grounds of insufficient evidence and convicted on the count of criminal conspiracy. Valpreda was sentenced to four years and six months and Gargamelli one year and six months. Bagnoli was given a two year suspended sentence for criminal conspiracy; Merlino was cleared on grounds of insufficient evidence, but got four years and six months for criminal conspiracy.

Rome, 29 December 1972: Roberto Gargamelli

The treatment doled out to Valpreda’s relations— who had supported the anarchist’s alibi — was somewhat ambiguous and the perjury charge was thrown out. The same line was taken with Delle Chiaie. And what of Elena Segre, Valpreda’s friend, who had also confirmed the anarchist’s alibi? She had vanished from the records. Another mystery.

The findings handed down in Catanzaro amounted to a contradictory sentence: it recognised the guilt of Freda, Ventura and Giannettini, but was still partly rooted in the case prepared by Judges Occorsio and Cudillo — hence the decision to dismiss the case against the anarchists and conspiracy convictions on the basis of insufficient evidence.

But something else cast an ambiguous light on the verdict. Faced with reticence on the part of some of the VIP witnesses, the judges in Catanzaro opted not to take action themselves, and referred the trial records relating to ex-premiers Giulio Andreotti and Mariano Rumor, and former ministers Mario Tanassi (Defence) and Mario Zagari (Justice) back to Milan. The judges did, however, have grounds for pride in the contradictions into which General Saverio Malizia, Tanassi’s legal adviser, blundered and had him arrested in the courtroom. He was tried immediately and sentenced to one year, but was soon released. This was followed by the usual outcome — the Court of Cassation annulled the trial and referred the case to the Court of Assizes in Potenza who cleared Malizia on all counts on 30 July 1980.

To the aid of the politicians came the judge from Milan, Luigi Fenizio (to whom the investigation had passed when Alessandrini was killed by members of the underground Prima Linea organisation on 29 January 1979) who forwarded an order declaring their innocence to the parliamentary commission of inquiry. On 24 August 1981 the commission closed the file on the accusations against Andreotti, Rumor, Tanassi and Zagari and all four politicians were dropped from the investigation.

But the real sensation came at the appeal hearing when, on 20 March 1981, the Catanzaro court cleared the fascists and the anarchists on the count of massacre. So now no one was to blame for the Piazza Fontana. Freda and Ventura were sentenced to 15 years for conspiracy to subvert and for the bomb attacks of 25 April 1969 and 9 August 1969. In effect, the judges unpicked the logical continuity — underpinned by the evidence — which linked the three main 1969 attacks. They absolved Giannettini on grounds of insufficient evidence and reduced the sentences passed on Maletti and Labruna.

The court of Cassation had this in mind when, on 10 June 1982, it entrusted a second appeal to Bari, to put paid once and for all to the proceedings against Giannettini, who was able to announce: “The implication of myself was prompted by political motives. The intention was to strike at the SID through me.”

The same ritual was played out in the appeal court in Bari (Puglia) — with one outstanding difference: the prosecutor, Umberto Toscani, asked that Valpreda be found not guilty. But the judges chose to stick with tradition:  doubt should serve the fascists as well as the anarchists. Meanwhile, they reduced Maletti’s sentence — who was on the run in South Africa — to one year, and that of Labruna to ten months.

With that verdict on 1 August 1985 the curtain was to be brought down on the Piazza Fontana massacre. The final act came in the Court of Cassation in Rome, which rejected every application for a new trial (the Cassation was in fact the central prop of this courtroom farce). It was the highest levels of the judiciary that had taken the initial investigation away from Milan and entrusted them to Rome. They were the ones who had argued that Milan was ungovernable and that the trial should be heard in Catanzaro. They had also conjoined the cases against the anarchists and the fascists.

On 27 January 1987, the first section of the Court of Cassation put paid to a trial that had spread out to occupy time and space. It was Judge Corrado Carnevale (who was later to earn fame as the “verdict-quashing judge”) who was in charge of the most important section of the Court of Cassation and who distinguished himself as the “king of the nit-pickers”, who put Mafiosi, terrorists and bankrupts back on the streets.

Judge Corrado Carnevale

Mario Tutti

Here are a few examples of this: on 16 December 1987, Carnevale annulled the Italicus massacre case, the main accused in which were the neo-fascists Mario Tuti and Luciano Franci. Earlier he had repealed the life sentence passed on the Greco brothers who had been found guilty of ordering the murder of Judge Rocco Chinnici. On 25 June 1990 Carnevale repealed the life sentence passed on Raffaele Cutolo, head of the mafioso Nuova Camorra Organizzata. He also cleared Licio Gelli, on 15 October 1990, on charges of subversion and membership of an armed gang. On 5 March 1991 he ordered a retrial in the case of the 24 December 1984 bombing of the Naples-Milan express in which 16 people were killed and hundreds injured. The upshot of this was the repeal of the life sentence passed on mafia boss Pippo Calò. Such frantic activity could scarcely pass unremarked and in 1995 Judge Carnevale’s performance was the subject of a book, La giustizia è cosa nostra (Justice is Our Thing).

Mario Tuti and Luciano Franci

Carnevale has repealed 134 life sentences — 19 of which were passed on the mafioso Mommo Piromalli — plus 700 years’ imprisonment for 96 people charged with mafia membership, drug-dealing and murders.

In short, now the massacre was the subject of new court proceedings following the arrest of Delle Chiaie, Carnevale was the very man for the Piazza Fontana case. And so, on 26 October 1987, the seventh trial relating to the Piazza Fontana massacre — not counting the two aborted by the Court of Cassation — opened with Delle Chiaie and Massimiliano Fachini together in the dock. After 90 sittings, both men were cleared of involvement on 20 February 1989, a verdict confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 5 July 1991


Inspector Luigi Calabresi (17 May 1972)

A shot from a pistol, then another, echoed through the Via Luigi Cherubini, near the corner of the Via Mario Pagano in Milan, then a man walked briskly from the scene, got into a car, and disappeared leaving Inspector Luigi Calabresi dead on the pavement. It was 17 May 1972.

Milan, Via Luigi Cherubini, 17 May 1972: Calabresi murder secene

So ended the life of the policeman that much of the left held responsible for Giuseppe Pinelli’s death. While many of the newspapers of the extra-parliamentary left, especially the weekly Lotta Continua, openly accused the inspector, the most often repeated slogans during protest marches were: “Calabresi — assassin” and “Pinelli, I will be avenged.”  The walls of many cities were covered with posters depicting Calabresi with blood on his hands.

The writing on the wall

As far as a substantial sector of public opinion was concerned, the inspector, born in Rome in 1937, was no longer a glittering and decorated public servant, always dapper with his designer jumpers and claiming to be a “liberal” who voted social democrat. He had become a protagonist in the strategy of tension.

Lotta Continua’s press campaign became even more outspoken when reporters monitoring developments at the Palace of Justice learned that the investigation into Pinelli’s death was about to be wound up, with the police found blameless.

Lotta Continua's anti-Calabresi campaign

In fact, acting prosecutor Giovanni Caizzi closed the file on 21 May 1970. The intention of the editors of Lotta Continua was to provoke Calabresi — who had been rechristened as “Inspector Window” — to get him to sue the paper in order to reopen the “Pinelli case” before the courts. On 15 April, Calabresi brought charges against Pio Baldelli, Lotta Continua’s editor-in-chief, for “ongoing and aggravated defamation through attribution of a specific act”, to wit, responsibility for Pinelli’s death.

But Milan’s prosecutor-general, Enrico De Peppo, delayed for over a month before assigning the case to a magistrate for investigation, and pressed Caizzi to finish his examination in the meantime. The trial was to begin once Caizzi had declared Pinelli’s death an accident.

The courtroom confrontation between Calabresi and Baldelli opened on 9 October 1970.  It was a trial heavy with expectations and was prefaced in September by an appeal published in the weekly L’Espresso and signed by Italian intellectuals, university lecturers and politicians (including Elvio Fachinelli, Lucio Gambi, Giulio Maccacaro, Cesare Musatti, Enzo Paci, Carlo Salinari and Mario Spinelli). Their public letter opened with a challenge: “Railway man Pino Pinelli died on the night of 15-16 December 1969 as a result of a fall from a window at Milan police headquarters. How, we do not know. All we know is that he was innocent.”

Marcello Guida

After criticising the closure of the file on his death and the application to have the suit brought by Pinelli’s loved ones against police chief Marcello Guida (who had libelled the anarchist) set aside, the signatories concluded: “We owe the magistrate our respect, but we cannot help but hold him jointly responsible for the death of Giuseppe Pinelli, a second time, by ascribing to him crimes not of his doing — and bearing the grave responsibility of murdering our faith in a justice that is no longer justice when it fails to reflect the conscience of its citizenry.”

But there was also a film that was enjoying great success — Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion — directed by Elio Petri and featuring Gian Maria Volonté, with a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. Audiences immediately identified the inspector played by Volonté as Inspector Calabresi.

In court, Michele Lener defended Calabresi, and Marcello Gentili and Bianca Guidetti Serra acted for Baldelli. The judge was Carlo Biotti and the prosecuting attorney was Emilio Guicciardi. The court was surrounded by an impressive deployment of police and carabinieri.

The opening session was packed to overflowing, with people shouting out “murderer” when Calabresi entered to give evidence.

Calabresi giving his evidence in court

The inspector spoke of Pinelli as a decent fellow with whom he had swapped views. He had even made the anarchist the gift of a book (Enrico Emanueli’s Un milione di uomini) and Pinelli had reciprocated with a gift of Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology. He had handled Pinelli’s interrogation because he was under orders and inquiries were being made in every direction. In short, Pinelli’s questioning on 15 December had been relaxed, and only once did he utter the phrase: “Valpreda has talked.” But that was as far as it went. And when Pinelli jumped, Calabresi was in the office of his senior officer, Antonino Allegra.

Calabresi failed to mention the threats he had been making for months against Pinelli when he realised he could not count on him to collaborate.

During a picket mounted in San Vittore in September to demand the release of the anarchists arrested for the bombings on 25 April, Calabresi had approached Pinelli and — after an exchange of words — told him angrily: ‘I’m going to make you pay’ ” recalled Cesare Vurchio from the Ponte della Ghisolfa circle, an eye-witness to that exchange.

The other police officers trooped through the court during the succeeding sittings. The script never varied, down to use of the same phrases and terminology: ‘calm and relaxed”; “launched himself into the void”; “I received the news”. They gave the clear impression that they were all going through a lesson committed to memory.

Popular newspaper cartoon depicting requirement of visitors to Calabresi’s office to wear a parachute

But there were noticeable departures from what they had told Judge Caizzi previously. The times had altered. The interrogation had not ended at midnight but at 11.30 p.m. The window had not been wide open, but closed on one side. Savino Lo Grano, newly promoted carabinieri captain, originally said he had watched Pinelli throughout and saw him throw himself from the window. Now, in court, he claimed he had seen no such thing: he had been looking at the open window while two police officers, trapped behind the shutters, had been unable to stop the anarchist.

The greatest absurdity, however, came in the statement of brigadiere Vito Panessa. He contradicted himself and allowed his mouth run away with him, first admitting things, then denying them. Finally he issued a denial that had the ring of an unwitting confession: “I have said that I am not in a position to provide details but, broadly speaking, bear in mind that there was no agreed story and it was, therefore, a matter for investigation … Each of us went before Judge Caizzi and gave out the story that.”

Judge Biotti suddenly interjected: “Signor Panessa, you are rambling!” before asking Panessa: “What is this business about an agreed story?”  Panessa answered: “It is not the case that there was an exchange of views between those of us who had been present: the following day we each went before the judge and told him what we could remember.”

The case dragged on along similar lines for five more months, but in the end Baldelli’s defence lawyers scored their first victory. Pinelli’s body was to be exhumed and undergo fresh forensic examination.

What were Gentili and Guidetti getting at? They wanted to check if Pinelli’s body still carried any sign of a karate chop delivered while under interrogation, the sort of blow that might have left Pinelli irretrievably disoriented and leading to the fall from the window.  And that was precisely what Lener did not want to hear.

Change of scene.

Lener moved that Judge Biotti be removed from the case and, on 7 June 1971, the Appeal Court dismissed him. On what grounds? The judge had spoken with Calabresi’s defence counsel on 21 November 1970 when he allegedly said something about pressure from upstairs to ensure the case ended with Baldelli’s acquittal, and he had supposedly told him that “both he and the other two judges were convinced that the famous karate chop had broken Pinelli’s spinal column.”

The removal of Biotti was the ace card played by Calabresi’s defence at a point when it was perhaps still possible to establish — in spite of a year and a half’s having passed — how Pinelli died. The trial quickly became bogged down.

A further investigation was launched into Licia Pinelli’s — Guiseppe’s widow — complaint to examining magistrate Gerardo D’Ambrosio which led to manslaughter charges being brought on 4 October 1971 against the police team which had interrogated Pinelli: Calabresi, Lo Grano, Panessa, Giuseppe Caracuta, Carlo Mainardi and Pietro Mucilli. D’Ambrosio had the anarchist’s body exhumed on 21 October. But, as lots of scientists and physicians had argued, given the advanced state of decomposition, it was by then hard to discover anything.

Licia Pinelli during a legal hearing

Things moved on to the verdict passed on 27 October 1975. Calabresi — no longer a deputy inspector but now a full inspector — was by then three years dead. The verdict focused on “active misfortune” as the cause of Pinelli’s death. D’Ambrosio cleared all the accused on the grounds that “the total lack of evidence that something happened is, under our procedural system, as well as under the system of other more progressive states, tantamount to evidence that a thing has not happened.”

But the “Calabresi case” refused to go away. On 17 May 1973 a monument to the inspector was unveiled in the courtyard of Milan police headquarters to mark the first anniversary of his death. The ceremony was attended by Interior minister Mariano Rumor.

Gianfranco Bertoli, having recently returned to Italy from Israel, threw a bomb at the entrance to the headquarters. His intention — as he declared after his arrest — was to get the authorities paying tribute to Calabresi, but a police officer had kicked the device away and it had ended up among the crowd. Carnage ensued: four lives were lost and nearly 40 people were injured.

Gianfranco Bertoli

Bertoli claimed he was an individualist anarchist. But nearly all the press described him as a fascist and cited a series of previous actions (attacks on leftwing party premises and others) that were to fall through during the trial.

Born in Venice in 1933, Bertoli — a member of the PCI’s Youth Federation up until 1952 — had a record as a petty criminal and had been in and out of jail for years. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on 9 March 1976.

From 1993 Bertoli enjoyed an open prison regime. But his case still held a few surprises in store. It would seem (the conditional tense is de rigueur in this tale) that fresh information has since surfaced regarding those who had somehow incited him to carry out his deed — protagonists of the strategy of tension, perhaps.

So who killed Calabresi? There was silence on that front up until 2 July 1988 when Leonardo Marino, a former FIAT worker and ex-member of Lotta Continua, gave himself up to the carabinieri in La Spezia (he sold crepes from a kiosk in nearby Bocca di Magra). He wanted to come clean about his and his colleagues’ part in the Calabresi murder.

But 17 days were to elapse before he signed a statement. Why? That remains a mystery.  He was taken to Milan, and it was a further seven days before he made a full confession. Another mystery. On 28 July, in addition to Marino, Adriano Sofri, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani were arrested. Sofri had been the unchallenged national leader of Lotta Continua and Pietrostefani was the movement’s leader in Milan.

Calabresi's assassins: (top l/r) Leonardo Marino, Adriano Sofri, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani

A lengthy procession through the courts began. The charges were based exclusively on Marino’s confession that he had driven the getaway car, Bompressi actually committed the murder.  Sofri and Pietrostefani had given the go-ahead. The initial verdict was handed down in July 1991. They were all found guilty as charged. The conspirators and perpetrator received 22 year sentences, Marino 11 years. On 23 October 1992, the Court of Cassation dismissed the verdict on the basis of insufficient motive. So, on 21 December 1993 the Appeal Court of Assizes cleared them all. The verdict was thrown out again on 27 October 1994, and a third Appeal Court confirmed the 22-year sentences passed on Sofri, Bompressi and Pietrostefani, while Marino, thanks to extenuating considerations, saw his case dismissed. On 22 January the Court of Cassation had the final word and confirmed the convictions.