Italian authorities are charging two police officers for blindfolding a Marin County teen suspect and posting pictures of him to social media, while the young man awaits trial for being an accessory to murder.
Since late July, we’ve been following the story of two recent Mount Tamalpais High graduates accused of killing an Italian police officer in an alleged drug deal gone terribly wrong. While family and friends of the Marin County youngsters describe them in flattering terms like “nicest guys and neighbors I have ever met,” there have been some allegations of the pair’s prior violence, and Italian police have released photos of from the suspects smartphones showing all manner of illegal gun and drug activities. Those police may have released too many photos, though, because the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published leaked photos of 18-year-old suspect blindfolded Guantanamo-style, which officers then posted to WhatsApp along with unproven allegations about the teens.
ABC 7’s Dan Noyes has been keeping up with Italian police and journalists on the matter, and reports three Italian officers have now been charged for the misconduct. The blindfolded suspect Gabriel Natale-Hjorth is not the one charged with murder (that charge went to his companion Finnegan Elder, who has confessed to the stabbing but claims self-defense). But he is charged as an accessory to the murder, in the incident where the duo allegedly attempted to buy cocaine, were sold crushed aspirin, stole their sham coke dealer’s backpack who then called the police, and set off an incident where Elder stabbed a plainclothes police officer.
But now the blindfold photo is capturing more Italian media attention than the stabbing incident.
“That was horrible to see and was horrible for us, even for Italians to see and I figure for Americans, it was even worse," La Repubblica journalist Maria Elena Vincenzi told ABC 7. “On the WhatsApp groups, he even said that the two guys were trying to buy drugs, and because it was not proved yet, it was nothing yet, I mean it was the first day."
Two unnamed Italian officers are charged over the blindfolding and photo dissemination, while a third officer is charged with lying to investigators about whether a gun was involved. The Italian paper Agenzia Ansa reports that prosecutors had completed an investigation into the officers, which they say is “a move that frequently comes before an indictment request.”
According to a KTLA report in late November, Elder and Natale-Hjorth will face trial in Rome beginning February 26, 2020.
Image: Corriere della Sera via CNN