That fax “gone”. To judge Berlusconi was to be Franco

It is a pity that judge Antonio Esposito, on that July day seven years ago, did not have time to see that fax that came from the Milan Court of Appeal. Because if Esposito had had time to read the fax, the story of the trial of Silvio Berlusconi for the history of TV rights would have been different, at least in his final episode. It would not have been Esposito to try the Knight in Cassation. To celebrate the hearing and to decide on Berlusconi’s appeal against the conviction for tax fraud would have been a section of the Cassation chaired by Amedeo Franco: a judge who considered Berlusconi innocent. And that after participating in his conviction he confided to friends and Berlusconi himself that he felt part of a “firing squad” led from above. How would the TV rights trial have ended if Franco had presided over the college of Cassation instead of Esposito?

That that file should arrive at Amedeo Franco tells an unequivocal document: the scheduling of the shifts of the Week section for 2013, prepared by the first president Giorgio Santacroce. But to understand its importance, we need to go back to that fax which, unfortunately, Esposito (and we must believe him) in a long letter to the Reformist swears he has not read in time. We are on 9 July 2013, Esposito was commissioned to celebrate the trial on 30 July on the basis of the cards arrived from Milan which indicated the prescription date as 1 August. Then the trial is set urgently, and – as is allowed only in exceptional cases – the terms granted to the defenders are shortened.

However, on July 5 the Milan Court of Appeal corrects his calculations, and finds that the prescription is only effective on September 14, and urgently notifies the Cassation by fax. So there is no longer any reason to reduce the time limits for defenders. And at that point the first date useful for conciliating rights to the defense and avoidance of the prescription is the hearing of the weekday section set for 9 August. It was that, the natural date for Berlusconi’s trial.

But in that case, who would the college be made up of? Here is the importance of the table. In the section of 9 August, Esposito is not expected, and neither are D’Isa, Aprile and De Marzo, the three judges who will share Berlusconi’s sentence with Esposito. Amedeo Franco is expected to preside over the college with colleagues Taddei, Mazzei, Paternò and Lignola. And it is enough to know Franco’s previous and subsequent judgments in tax matters to understand how it would end.

But the fax that left Milan is lost for four days in the Court of Cassation, and only arrives at the Feriale on the 9th, in the afternoon. If Esposito had seen him in time he would have been faced with a nice dilemma. Take note of the news, grant the defenders the terms of the law, let the colleague Amedeo Franco celebrate the trial and that the Knight would face an almost certain acquittal? Or pretend nothing, keep the process and convict the former head of government? The answer is obvious: Esposito would have done his duty, he would have stripped himself of the file and let justice take its course. But the problem does not arise. Antonio Esposito says that that fax does not say anything to him, and that in any case at 15.25 by now the games were done, because the hearing of 30 July was now fixed.

Perhaps someone will one day explain why the “urgent” fax of the Court of Appeal of Milan to the central chancellery of the Cassation on July 5 instead reaches the sixth section, and from there replied only when it is too late.