Pope's former butler could face four years in prison

Pope's former butler could face four years in prison

Paolo Gabriele.
Paolo Gabriele.

.- The trial of Pope Benedict's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, will begin Sept. 29 as he faces up to four years in prison for stealing confidential documents.

According to the Vatican’s appeals court prosecutor, Giovanni Giacobbe, the trial will be public and the first hearing will take place before a three-judge panel.  

Paolo faces a minimum sentence for “aggravated theft” of three years and a maximum of four. His IT tech accomplice, Claudio Sciarpelletti, faces a maximum sentence of 12 months.

According to the Vatican accords with Italy, the sentences would be served in an Italian facility, as the Vatican does not operate any prisons. As the head of the Vatican City State, Pope Benedict could grant a pardon to his ex-butler at any time during the trial. However, once it has begun – because of the differences between Canon Law and the laws of the Vatican City State – the Pope will most likely wait until the end of the trial before making any interventions.

A limited number of persons will be able to attend the public trial, including some journalists.  Recording is strictly prohibited and any video or photos of the trial will be made public at the opening of the hearing.

Giacobbe said the trial does not have a specific time frame, and the accused are free to not be present in person and instead be represented by their lawyers.

The accused will not be under oath during the trial, but witnesses will have to be sworn in. Giacobbe also said the court will not be allowed to ask for assistance from the Commission of Cardinals established by the Pope to carry out in internal investigation of the leaks.  

However, if the commission led by Cardinal Julian Herranz Casado wishes to intervene, the court is free to allow it.

Last May, the Pope’s former butler was arrested for leaking confidential Vatican documents and was detained for two months by Vatican authorities.

He was later kept under house arrest in his apartment in Vatican City, where he lives with his wife and three children. He is currently on conditional release. Giacobbe said Paolo is allowed to travel to his trial without escort by Vatican security officials.

After formal dispositions are taken, the first hearing in the trial will take place at the Vatican City State Court Room this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. local time.