(ANOTHER) UPREDICTED 
ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE

The criminal case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito is, for all intents and purposes over.

The political circus is just beginning.

April 6, 2009, 3:32 a.m.: The quaint Italian town of L’Aquila, just 114 miles from Perugia, was struck by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. 297 people died.

October 22, 2012: In an event which sent shock waves around the world, the earth moved in Italy yet again when six Italian seismologists were arrested and charged with manslaughter for not predicting the L’Aquila earthquake. Incredulous experts from around the world testified that earthquakes are scientifically unpredictable at this point in the history of mankind—a fact disputed nowhere on earth, except one Italian courtroom. The scientists were convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison—each. The main damage in this quake was to six innocent seismologists and the justice system of Italy.
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The courts in L'aquila were devastated. In more ways than one.
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Certainly, Italian ‘justice’ has a history of preying on its own good people. The Italian Inquisitions of the 1500’s and 1600’s are infamous for the persecution of people propounding scientific truth. The legendary scientist and astronomer Galileo, for example, fell afoul of the inquisition for espousing certain theories of Copernicus; in particular, the theory that the earth rotated around the sun—which it did and still does. A lot of people are unaware that Galileo died under house arrest in Italy. 1,250 other people are alleged to have been executed for similar “heresy” during this time. One would hope that nearly 600 years later, Italian justice would have improved. One would be wrong.


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Tragically, on March 26, 2013, another feudal judicial decision was handed down when the Italian Court of Cassation, the Italian equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, failed to formally affirm the full appellate exoneration of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, regardless of the fact that their innocence is almost as widely accepted and scientificlly proven as Copernicus’ theory.

Sadly, this is not an isolated anomaly. Italy is displaying with frightening regularity a type of vendetta-based ‘justice’ many are calling ‘medieval.’ In 1999, the very same Court of Cassation which failed to accept Knox and Sollecito’s proven innocence, ruled in a rape case that women wearing tight jeans cannot be raped. This was not the decision of a little back-water town judge remember, this was the Italian Supreme Court. The logic was based on the apparently inescapable conclusion that tight jeans could not be removed from a woman by an attacker. I suppose their conclusion is that man can predict earthquakes, but it is a physical impossibility for him to remove a woman’s jeans. The court ruled tight jeans could not be removed “…without the collaboration of the person wearing them.” I’m not making this up. 


However, just this last summer, the Court of Cassation outdid themselves; they ruled that it is a crime to tell someone “You don’t have the balls.” Seriously. That this case even got to the supreme court in Italy is mind-boggling and indicative of the juvenile/macho mentality of most of the judiciary there. Their decision is incomprehensible. The court found that the phrase inherently implied “…a lack of determination, competence and consistency – virtues which, rightly or wrongly, continue to be regarded as suggestive of the male gender.” This raises a question I’m sure it would take a legal scholar and a Ouija board to answer: Would it be a crime to tell a woman  “You don’t have the balls?” One could only assume it would depend on whether she was wearing tight jeans or not.

In the Knox/Sollecito case, a prosecutor (Giuliano Mignini) under indictment (ultimately convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison) created an incredibly complex, imagination-based case against two innocent kids in order to, according to many experts, shield himself from conviction or even further prosecution. During the Italian Inquisition of the 15th and 16th centuries, the main charges besides heresy were sorcery, immorality and witchcraft. And Mignini’s allegations against Knox?  She was a “strega” (witch) and she engaged in “satanic sex rituals.” Sounds vaguely familiar, no? Also familiar is the fact that no evidence existed to support the claims of either the inquisition or Mignini. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mignini lied about evidence in public, violated any rule of evidence which did not support his case (in reality, nothing supported his case) and got a conviction he apparently hoped would raise no eyebrows. He was wrong.

When the case was appealed--almost automatic in Italy, where half of all cases are reversed on appeal--the first action of the appeals court was to order that Mignini’s “evidence” be reviewed by independent experts. Italy is not completely devoid of honorable justices; they are simply in the minority. The judge in this appeal had to be imported from northern Italy near Austria in the hopes that he would be free of bias. He was. He not only allowed modern science into the courtroom, he ordered it there.
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DNA which prosecutor Mignini had claimed implicated Knox and Sollecito was found to have never existed, was intentionally or incompetently attributed, or so badly read that Mignini’s ‘experts’ couldn’t even tell gender by reading DNA. The police forensic investigation in this case made the Keystone Kops look like CSI New York. In a stinging rebuke, the appellate judge and jury not only exonerated Knox and Sollecito, but declared that the evidence didn’t simply fail to prove their guilt, but that it actually proved their innocence. The two kids were released after four years of unjust imprisonment. And that is where it should have ended.

But in Italy, as opposed to most democracies, a prosecutor can appeal even a “not guilty” verdict. In Italy, a prosecutor can keep re-trying a case until he gets a conviction. This ‘2 out of 3’ jurisprudence results in a kind of “rock, paper, scissors” legal system, where even evidence as solid as a rock can be rendered moot by a single sheet of paper. Mignini appealed the ‘innocente’ verdict, and the Court of Cassation rendered a verdict as stunning in its ignorance as the failure to predict the earthquake decision.

At this moment, news outlets are providing incomplete or inaccurate information on the case. To set the record straight, I would like to point out certain facts which are true at this moment:

Amanda and Raffaele’s exonerations have not been vacated. By Italian law, they are still adjudicated innocent persons.

No retrial has yet been ordered.

Not until the Court of Cassation releases their “Motivations” document in approximately 70 days or so will any decision have the affect of law. Retrial is a possibility, of course, but so is limited re-examination of certain pieces of evidence not already reviewed by the independent authority. There is no indication that the court has in any way challenged the validity of the independent authority’s review of the main pieces of discredited ‘evidence’ which led to the exoneration in the first place.  

There is no indication that the court rejected any of the findings of the appellate court, their questions actually centering on why more of Mignini’s supposed “evidence” was not reviewed by independent sources. Still, the decision reminds me very much of the 1972 Olympic Basketball gold-medal game in which the Americans, leading the Russian team by 3 at the end of regulation, twice had the clock reset to 3 seconds by the Russian referees, until the Russians “won” on a miracle shot. 40 years later, nobody but the Russian team and referees believe that they won
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The Americans celebrate after they had won the game the second time. (They lost after the third time Russian referees inexplicably put time back on the clock.)
Absent more interference, however, any retrial would still favor Knox and Sollecito because:

A retrial would be removed from the feudal, Mignini-controlled town of Perugia, and placed in Florence. Perugia has the judicial integrity of 1963 Selma, Alabama. Knox and Sollecito's exonerations on appeal were only possible because a judge and jury were brought in from out of town due to the bias of the locals.
The city of Florence knows Mignini. They are the city that indicted him and convicted him of malfeasance, sentencing him to 16 months in prison.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, however, not a soul seriously believes that Amanda Knox will ever spend another day in an Italian prison. Double jeopardy, corrupt prosecutors, absence of witnesses or credible evidence, perjury by the police, and the requirement that Giuliano Mignini present his case in an American federal court (which actually requires evidence, truth, and fairness) make the prospect of extradition at the request of a kangaroo court the stuff of Mignini’s dreams.

 Pratillo Hellman, the judge in the Knox/Sollecito appeal stands by his and the jury's unanimous decision to exonerate Knox and Sollecito, saying that there was absolutely no evidence of the involvement of the two in the crime. He also stated that he expected that the court of cassation would overturn his verdict, due to its close ties with the prosecutor.

Ultimately, regardless of the results of this modern inquisition, Amanda will never serve another unfair day in an Italian prison. The case, therefore has significance only to certain people:

1.      Prosecutor Mignini, still trying valiantly to clear his name of malfeasance and false prosecution charges while waiting on his retrial decision.

2.      The sadly deceived family of the innocent victim who have put their faith in a crooked prosecutor and a carnivorous Italian lawyer desperate for a share of a settlement from the wealthy Sollecito family.

3.      The sadly imbalanced, anonymous, basement-dwelling anti-Knox bloggers in Great Britain and America who have drunk the Kool-Aid of the prosecutor to the dregs and are focused more on hate than justice. This case will, for several more years give imagined purpose to their otherwise sad existence.

4.      Raffaele Sollecito, who is at this writing still a citizen of Italy and vulnerable to the whims of a judiciary largely based on innuendo.

In case the reader perceives this article as an indictment of Italy or the Italian people, let me assure you that is not the case. Since the appalling ruling came down, I have received texts, phone calls, E-mails and social media communications from prominent, published Italian forensic scientists, professors, DNA specialists, criminal profilers and lawyers, decrying the decision and offering their pro-bono assistance to the Knox family. Indeed, after the exoneration of Knox in October, 2011, I spent two days with Amanda in Italy and witnessed an almost non-stop stream of Italian citizens apologizing (sometimes tearfully) for what happened to her. They hugged, they kissed and they smiled. They know what its like to live under that system. The Italian people deserve a better justice system. They deserve more Judge Hellmans.

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While Amanda is in no real danger of ever being forced to submit to the corrupt Italian justice system again, (it’s a different story for Italian citizen Raffaele Sollecito), she can’t just do what the 1972 Olympic Men’s basketball team did and simply boycott a corrupt proceeding. They refused their silver medals and did not attend the medal ceremony. 

Amanda can't do that. She has to spend money to defend her name. It’s just a shame that two innocent kids got robbed. Again. It took the Russian referees three tries to steal the honest victory from the Americans in Munich. It may take even longer for the Italians to steal Amanda and Raffaele’s “innocence.” That’s the sad part. Nobody but the Russians doubt that the Americans won the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal, and nobody but Italians, the ignorant and the malignant doubt that Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.

Why then didn’t the Court of Cassation do the honorable and right thing and affirm the appellate decision? Why didn’t they act bravely and decisively? Why didn’t they exonerate two good kids in the face of overwhelming evidence of their innocence? Why didn’t they display the --in their own words--“determination, competence and consistency” which are suggestive of their own male gender? 

Are they corrupt? 

It seems to me that they just didn't have the balls.
 
 
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Recently, the American public has been the eye-witness to a dark and horrible tragedy which sadly, can be attributed to little else but skin color. The Trayvon Martin case.

The formula is painfully obvious by now: Fear that a crime had been committed and the police were going to be of no help, combined with feeling of individual empowerment led to action before all the facts were known.  I’m speaking, of course, of the rallies calling for George Zimmerman’s arrest and conviction.

Zimmerman is likely guilty of manslaughter, if not murder. I am NOT arguing that he is innocent. Nor am I arguing that he is guilty. Zimmerman killed because he believed that he was right and didn’t need to wait for the authorities to do what was needed. This is a form of vigilantism. But many in the nationwide rallies are doing the same thing.

I am not surprised that there are people like George Zimmerman around. That’s not the issue in this case; the issue is the failure of a police department to act in a responsible manner, and the drumbeat for Zimmerman’s “arrest and conviction” at rallies around the United States. Calling for arrest, while premature, is understandable. Calling for a conviction is vigilantism. The facts are simply not known. As an FBI agent, even when I knew every fact there was to know; the court still decided whether the person was guilty; not me. This case has become tragically polarizing. It’s like the O.J. Simpson case, where evidence inexplicably appeared to break on lines of race. Both sides are suffering from extremism at their fringes. This case pushes all the standard liberal v. conservative buttons: Guns, race, the South, police, and prejudice. It's an absolute goldmine for people like Al Sharpton and Rush Limbaugh.

While it APPEARS to me that Zimmerman killed Trayvon without any real legal justification, I am troubled by the calls (from people like Al Sharpton) for Zimmerman's conviction and punishment. There is one  incontrovertible, undeniable and obvious fact when any person calls for Zimmerman's "conviction": The person who uttered those words has prejudged the case. Prejudge is, of course, the root word for prejudice. 

From a law enforcement point of view, it is hard to argue self-defense when Zimmerman appears to have chased down an unarmed man and confronted him in what appears from the phone tapes to be a very aggressive manner. Why he was allowed to possess a concealed weapon after an arrest for assaulting an officer, why he could carry a gun after domestic violence allegations is incomprehensible to me. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say he's guilty of at least manslaughter and possibly 2nd degree murder. But that's why we have courts and juries. All the facts are not in yet, it has not been before a judge or a jury (all of the things we fight and die for), and nothing is certain. O.J. Simpson was exonerated on much more substantial evidence of his guilt than exists for Zimmerman's guilt. 

The point is this: WE JUST DON'T KNOW ALL THE FACTS YET! Even if we did, we're not the jury.

That said, it would be hard to mismanage a case worse than the Sanford Police Department has this one. A man was killed; and there is ample evidence that Zimmerman may have committed a crime, yet nothing was done--not even a cursory investigation, it appears. Even if the police had been pursuing an indictment or arrest, they told nobody. When a case begins to have a life of its own and the public has been given enough facts to feel resentment (justified or not), it is incumbent upon the authorities to completely inform the public on their actions and the reasons for their actions, if for no other reason than to prevent frustration, outrage and mass demonstrations.

However, with the exception of the shooting itself, there is nothing more troubling about this case than the demands from some immoderate people (e.g. Al Sharpton) for Zimmerman's "arrest" and "conviction." Not a thorough investigation; an "arrest and conviction." In the late 1800's and early 1900's, some white Americans in the south, with some regularity, decided that a certain person was guilty of a crime because of half-truths, rumor and skin color. If the police didn't do anything about it, they went out and lynched "the guilty party." These are some of the darkest and most repulsive acts in American history. And they all started with someone deciding on guilt before the courts had a chance to. 

If you are right now searching for a label with which to brand me in order to marginalize the value of my words and are considering "racist," let me remind you that I spent nearly half my investigative career on civil rights and hate crimes squads. I was for several years the Los Angeles FBI coordinator for all white supremacist crimes. I was for many months the acting supervisor of all white supremacist investigations in Los Angeles. I lived among the Aryan Nations in Idaho and Washington in the mid-80's during a particularly violent period in their existence.

If you think my rhetoric hyperbolic; know that today, March 27, 2012, the New Black Panther Party has offered a $10,000 reward for the “capture and citizen’s arrest," of George Zimmerman, "dead or alive."  Mikhail Muhammad, Southern Regional Director of the New Black Panther Party said today;  “It’s time for us as black men to take justice in our own hands,” said the voice of moderation, “You kill mine god-damn it I got to kill yours.”  Don't forget the rope, Muhammad.
 
The NBPP are sick, hateful people. But when people like Al Sharpton call for Zimmerman's conviction, he has in my humble opinion crossed a line into the very reasoning that was so prevalent in the south at the turn of the last century. The formula is the same: You have at least half the facts, a crime was committed wherein a person of your race is the victim and a person of another race is the perpetrator; therefore the alleged perpetrator is convicted in your mind. What else do you need? With few exceptions, the raising of a lynch mob certainly started with the phrase: "We all know he's guilty!" Al Sharpton says all he wants is "justice," which he defines as Zimmerman's conviction. This is frightening to me, but not surprising, as I  have long been convinced that Sharpton a racist and an opportunist. 

I do not think the rallies per se are problematic. When they simply demand a full and complete investigation they are in the greatest tradition of America. But there is a fine line between a 'rally' and a 'mob.' And it is this: When the rally demands an arrest, they presume to know all the facts. When they demand a conviction, they presume to be judge and jury. Sharpton has called the crime "murder," a legal term which presumes Zimmerman's guilt, and when asked to define what he means by "justice," he said that it included, "arrest," "a fair trial," "conviction," and "punishment" for Zimmerman. Calling for a "fair trial then sentencing" is a self-contradicting statement that originated in the days of the gulags.

In reality, Sharpton has shown himself to be a clone of Zimmerman. Zimmerman made assumptions based on race. Sharpton is making assumptions based on race. Zimmerman may have believed in his mind that he was doing what was best for society, that he was an avenging hero, and that he was ensuring justice. Sharpton seems to believe the same thing about himself. The allegations against Zimmerman are that he thought he knew all the facts he needed to make a life and death decision, that he was a person who had the delusional believe that he was the final arbiter of "justice," and because of that, acted before he really understood the truth. 

Who does that sound like to you?