Americans Appeal Life Sentence for Killing an Italian Officer

In a 346-page ruling issued two months after the May verdict, the court said that “despite their young age,” Mr. Elder and Mr. Natale Hjorth had “alarming” personalities that upheld “deviant models of behavior,” such as glorifying drugs and flaunting money and weapons as “symbols of success.” The court reasoned that the two men had “acted according to a premeditated plan” and that the murder had been the “predictable, probable consequence” of the events that led to it.

Both defendants and their families have rejected those characterizations.

Leah Elder, Mr. Elder’s mother, who traveled to Rome from San Francisco last month to celebrate her son’s 22nd birthday, said that he had descended into a “significant and deep and perilous state,” after the verdict was announced. But nine months later he was doing better, she said, noting that he was exercising, taking Italian language classes and contributing to a newsletter run by a volunteer group for inmates and their families.

Heidi Hjorth, Mr. Natale Hjorth’s mother, said in a telephone interview from California, where she lives, that her son was “flooded with worries and fears” but was also exercising in prison, including playing soccer, and trying to start a university course. She said that she planned to visit Rome later this month.

“Hope and faith in justice is all we have left in our vulnerability,” Ms. Hjorth said.

Mr. Elder is being held at the Rebibbia prison in northeastern Rome, while Mr. Natale Hjorth is at Velletri prison, southeast of the capital.

Looking tired, Rosa Maria Esilio, Vice Brigadier Cerciello Rega’s widow, declined to speak to reporters on Thursday.

After the hearing, lawyers for Mr. Natale Hjorth said that the prosecutor’s request to reduce the sentence for their client was “a first step.” But Fabio Alonzi, one of the lawyers, said that they would continue to argue for Mr. Natale Hjorth’s “total lack of involvement” in the killing.

Ms. Elder said that the events of 2019 had resulted in “sorrow and sadness and heartbreak” for everyone involved.

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