Milan

>>>ANSA/ Berlusconi's 'sex-party pimps' found guilty

Fede, Mora get 7 years prison, Minetti 5, plus bans from office

>>>ANSA/ Berlusconi's 'sex-party pimps' found guilty

(By Christopher Livesay) Milan, July 19 - A Milan court on Friday sentenced three associates of three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi for providing him with prostitutes, one of whom was a showgirl known as Ruby who was underage at the time. Lele Mora, a former talent scout, Emilio Fede, a TV anchorman, and Nicole Minetti, the ex-premier's former dental hygienist and ex-Lombardy councilor, were convicted of organizing alleged 'bunga bunga' sex parties at Berlusconi's Arcore residence in the closely watched case. Fede and Mora were both given seven-year prison sentences and banned for life from public office while Minetti was sentenced to five years in prison and banned from office for just as many years. The three are expected to appeal. In their closing arguments, prosecutors compared Fede and Mora, to "tasters of fine wine" saying that they tested the girls before putting them into "the circuit of the Arcore nights". Signs that judges were expected to rule against the three began to show at the end of last month when Mora told judges he was "a passive accomplice" in the affair and that the evenings constituted "excess, abuse of power and degradation". He later backpedaled before journalists, but said that during various periods spent in prison on bankruptcy-related charges, he "had the chance to think a lot," that he no longer wanted to "eat rotten food" and he apologized to journalists and left-wing individuals at whom he had lashed out in the past. In a related case, Berlusconi is also appealing a seven-year sentence and lifetime ban from office for paying Karima 'Ruby' El Mahroug for sex and then abusing his office in a lie to cover it up. In the several ongoing and previous trials, Berlusconi has always denied wrongdoing, claiming he is the victim of a minority group of allegedly left-wing prosecutors and judges who he says are persecuting him for political reasons. His centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party on Thursday accused Milan judges of partisan bias in their tax-fraud ruling against the media magnate. Berlusconi's four-year term for inflating film-rights purchases at his Mediaset media empire, cut to one for an amnesty, as well as a five-year ban from public office was upheld by an appeals court in May, and the supreme Cassation Court will hear his appeal on July 30. In a statement, the PdL said the series of trials was based on "an accusation so absurd and laughable that, in the presence of judges who are not totally compromised and non-partisan, (the trials) would be over before they begin, with a great saving of time for the judiciary and money for taxpayers". The PdL has been particularly outraged over the Cassation's decision to hear his case allegedly so soon at the end of this month, supposedly depriving his legal team enough time to prepare. The Cassation said it was forced to move on the case or risk it timing out under the statute of limitations, something that has happened a number of times in the media mogul's previous legal entanglements. PdL lawmakers have vowed to resign en masse if their leader's ban from office is upheld. Their threats and Berlusconi's legal woes in general have added tension to an already unstable coalition government, cobbled together from the center left and center right after two months of post-election parliamentary gridlock earlier this year.

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