ROME (AP) — An Italian court late Saturday convicted four African men in the drugging, aggravated sexual assault and murder of an Italian teen in Rome, a crime that spurred calls in Italy for quick expulsions of migrants illegally living in in the country, state TV and private Italian media said.
After some nine hours of deliberation, the court delivered its verdict and sentenced two of the defendants to life imprisonment, Italy’s stiffest criminal punishment, and meted out prison sentences of 27 and 24.5 years to the other two, the LaPresse news agency said.
The body of Desiree Mariottini, 16, was found in October 2018 in an abandoned building used by drug dealers in a neighborhood near Rome’s main train station. When arrested, the suspects were found to be lacking documents granting permission for migrants to legally reside in Italy.
Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, who was interior minister at the time of the slaying, used the case to push his anti-migrant political agenda. The brutal crime also focused attention on the degradation of some areas of the Italian capital.
Some in Italy demanded that the then-populist government speed up expulsions of immigrants who were in Italy illegally, as promised by Salvini’s League party during the 2018 election campaign.
Prosecutors, who had sought life imprisonment for all four defendants, alleged during the trial that Mariottini had been drugged, gang raped and left for dead in the abandoned building. Defendants were also charged with providing drugs to a minor.
One of the defendants is from Gambia, two are from Senegal and the fourth is from Nigeria.
In the days following the slaying, Italian news reports indicated that Mariottini had told her family that she had missed the bus to her town outside of Rome and she would stay at a friend’s house the night she disappeared. A lawyer for the family denied reports that she had a drug problem.