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Italy court sentences former Berlusconi lawyer to prison for accepting bribe

[JURIST] An Italian court on Tuesday sentenced David Mills [JURIST news archive], a British barrister and former lawyer to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian; BBC profile], to four-and-a-half years in prison for accepting a $600,000 bribe to give false testimony [JURIST report] at two trials in 1997 and 1998 involving Berlusconi broadcasting company Mediaset [corporate website]. The verdict was announced in an as-yet unpublished opinion from Judge Nicoletta Gandus, who Berlusconi unsuccessfully attempted to remove from the trial [JURIST report] as biased last June. The judgment also ordered Mills to pay 275,000 euros in perversion of justice fines and court costs. Mills was sentenced in absentia and said that he will appeal [IGN report, in Italian] the verdict.

Mills's testimonies at issue were given during trials accusing Berlusconi of giving kickbacks to the late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi [JURIST report]. Berlusconi was acquitted of all those charges. The bribery and corruption trial against Berlusconi and Mills [JURIST report] began in 2007, but Berlusconi was removed as a defendant in July after a new law granted top Italian lawmakers immunity from prosecution [JURIST report] while in office. Italy's Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] is now considering the legality of the law [JURIST report], and the case against Berlusconi could resume if the high court strikes it down. A judicial reform bill currently being considered by the Italian parliament [Guardian report] could further stall Berlusconi's trial even if the immunity law is rejected by the high court, as a clause in the bill would require the court to restart the proceeding from the beginning.

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