Rome's Mayor Wins Acquittal, Averting Blow for Five Star Party
(Bloomberg) -- A court acquitted Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi of false testimony over a staff appointment in a verdict hailed by her anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which could have found itself fighting for control of the city against its populist national-government ally.
Penal court Judge Roberto Ranazzi dismissed the charge against Raggi at a hearing Saturday, with a report detailing the reasons for the verdict due to be published at a later date.
The acquittal averts a blow for Five Star, which has long campaigned against political corruption and rules Italy in a coalition with the anti-migration League. A conviction could have led to Raggi’s resignation and new elections in Rome, in which the League could have competed.
Prosecutors demanded Raggi, 40, be jailed for 10 months for allegedly telling an anti-corruption official that she alone had decided on the promotion of Renato Marra, a city hall manager, to lead the tourism department. Prosecutors alleged that Marra’s brother Raffaele, at the time Raggi’s close aide, had played a significant role in the appointment in a conflict of interest.
“Go for it Virginia!” Italian Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio, Five Star’s leader, said in a Facebook post after the verdict. “Am pleased to have always defended you and always believed in you.” Raggi said in a separate post that “in personal terms, it was a very difficult experience, but I never gave up.” She added that her work for Rome “can continue with greater determination.”
Raggi, who denied wrongdoing, testified on Oct. 25 that Raffaele Marra had “no decision-making role” in the appointment of his brother, according to newswire Ansa. She has also revoked Renato Marra’s nomination. If convicted, Raggi would have risked expulsion from Five Star under the party’s ethical code.
A former lawyer and city councilor, Raggi was elected in 2016 in a landslide, a rebellion against an elite often lambasted by Romans for failing to tackle the city’s chaos of traffic, poor garbage collection, public corruption and abysmal administration. Crowds chanted “Honesty! Honesty!” in her support during the campaign.
Her mandate has been plagued by resignations of city councilors, corruption scandals, municipal buses bursting into flames because of poor maintenance and garbage containers overflowing even in the city center. Trees uprooted by storms late last month still block sidewalks in sprawling heaps.
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