.- Despite his lawyer’s appeal to drop the case on the opening morning of hearings, a Vatican judge ruled that the trial for the second man accused in the so-called Vatileaks scandal will continue.
Claudio Sciarpelletti, the Vatican Secretariat of State’s computer programmer, is accused of aiding and abetting the Pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, in stealing documents from Benedict XVI.
Senior Vatican communications officer Greg Burke said the charge is "more like an obstruction charge" related to his contradictory testimony during an investigation last May.
Sciarpelletti’s trial began Nov. 5 and is expected to be shorter than Gabriele’s week-long series of court appearances.
Gabriele was convicted in October of stealing the Pope’s private documents and leaking them to a journalist who wrote a best-selling book based on them. The book presented Vatican conspiracies, infighting, and corruption, such as the awarding of crony contracts that cost the Holy See millions of dollars. Gabriele is currently serving an 18-month sentence in a Vatican jail cell.
Gabriele did not receive any compensation for passing along the material, and said he was motivated by his love for the Pope, whom he believed was being manipulated.
Sciarpelletti, 48, was arrested for a short time in May after his lawyer said an anonymous tip led to the search of his desk. An envelope was found addressed to Gabriele containing copies of documents that had been leaked to the Italian media.
The computer technician is being represented by Gianluca Benedetti, who argued in court this morning that his client was in an “emotional state” when he gave confused and contradictory testimony to investigators, leading to the charges leveled against him.
Sciarpelletti was only briefly arrested, and news of his arrest was not even known until the indictment against Gabriele came down in August. Before that, the Vatican said there were no others involved in the Gabriele affair. Since the indictment against the butler was made public, it has maintained that Sciarpelletti’s role was “marginal.”
The prosecution’s case rests in part on allegations from an anonymous source that Gabriele and Sciarpelletti were in frequent contact, which could suggest cooperation in leaking Vatican documents.
At this morning's court appearance, the technician's lawyer argued that Gabriele did not even trust his client to upgrade his obsolete work computer.
Interest in the trial is centered on which witnesses called to testify will actually take the bench, as well as the contents of the envelope found in the former programmer’s desk.
Media access to the trial is limited, with no TV or audio recordings of the trial being allowed.
Witnesses were prepared to testify today, but the more substantive proceedings that will impact the outcome of the trial will begin on Nov. 10.