Judges order separate trials for papal butler, computer expert
During the opening session of the trial Sept. 29, the judges said the trial against Paolo Gabriele, the papal assistant charged with aggravated theft, would continue Oct. 2. A separate trial for Claudio Sciarpelletti on charges of aiding and abetting Gabriele will be scheduled at a later date, they said.
Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the presiding judge, said four more sessions “next week should be sufficient” for completing Gabriele’s trial.
Gabriele, a 46-year-old married father of three, will be the first person to be questioned Oct. 2. No members of Gabriele’s family were present for the trial’s opening.
Although under Vatican law a defendant is not obliged to appear in person, Gabriele — dressed in a light gray suit and tie — was present in the courtroom Sept. 29.
Sciarpelletti, a computer technician in the Vatican Secretariat of State, was represented by his lawyer, who said his client fell ill unexpectedly because he felt too nervous.
The trial’s first session, in a small Vatican courtroom just to the southwest of the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, lasted two and a half hours, which included an 80-minute break during which the judges went behind closed doors to consider the motions and objections made by the defense lawyers as the trial opened. They decided:
– The court would exclude evidence from two interviews Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police force, conducted with Gabriele while in custody because they were done without the presence of his lawyers.
– The court would exclude information gathered during a conversation between Giani and Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the pope’s secretary, concerning how Gabriele allegedly obtained a check for 100,000 euro (almost $123,000) and a nugget of what’s presumed to be gold, which were reportedly found in Gabriele’s possession.
Meanwhile, the judges rejected other motions entered by the defense, including:
– A request for a ruling that a security camera installed on the landing outside Gabriele’s Vatican apartment lacked the proper authorization from Vatican judges.
– A request to enter into evidence transcripts of interviews conducted by a papally appointed commission of cardinals to investigate how information is handled and released by various Vatican offices. The judges determined the cardinal’s work was a matter concerning the Catholic Church and not Vatican City State.
– An argument that the judges were not competent to hear a case which could involve matters falling under the so-called “pontifical secret” because, the judges said, the contents of the stolen documents were not the object of the investigation.
– A motion to overturn the indictment on the basis that it was too “generic.”
– A request for the floor plan of Msgr. Ganswein’s office. The judges cited security concerns in denying the request.
The judges also said they would rule on other motions at a later date, including:
– Whether to accept evidence gathered from the apartment Gabriele used when he was with the pope at Castel Gandolfo. The defense said the material was gathered without informing the defendant or his lawyers.
– Whether or not to test the presumed gold nugget for fingerprints. [More]