The entire management of the file on the massacre of the Mottarone cable car in the court of Verbania is irregular. The ballet of competences between judges, the anomalous informality of the measures, the repeated absence of the head of the office, communications via email and chat, the arbitrariness of the award criteria and (above all) the removal of the file constitute “a triple mess” unprecedented in Italian judicial history. This is the conclusion of the seventh commission of the High Council of the Judiciary, which not without embarrassment examined the dossier and rejected the three court orders. Next Wednesday the document will be discussed and voted on by the plenum.
The story had become public knowledge after the president of the court of Verbania, Luigi Montefusco, had stolen the trial from the judge for the preliminary investigation Donatella Banci Buonamici, who a few days earlier had canceled the arrest of the three suspects ordered by the prosecutor. The Criminal Chambers, the main association of criminal lawyers, had proclaimed a strike denouncing “the unusual decision of unprecedented gravity” which, behind “implausible bureaucratic formalisms”, achieved the objective of “abruptly eliminating from the trial a judge who adopts unwelcome decisions to the pm “.
Several CSM advisors had raised the case. The councilors Nino Di Matteo and Sebastiano Ardita had asked “immediately” for further information, to “assess the correctness of the decision adopted as quickly as possible. Loredana Miccichè, Paola Braggion, Antonio D’Amato and Maria Tiziana Balduini (Independent Judiciary) had joined in the request, so that “the competent commission was urgently involved in the matter”.
Beyond the media hype of the controversy, the CSM must always verify the regularity with which the files are assigned in the judicial offices, according to predefined tables in order to respect the natural principle of the natural judge. Which was done in two stages. First, the Judicial Council of Turin (a mixed body made up of magistrates, lawyers and teachers) collected the documents and listened to the protagonists. Then he sent the papers to Rome.
From the dossier it turns out that in reality there are three measures under examination. The first dates back to February. The investigating judge Elena Ceriotti is exonerated by the president of the court until the end of May, “to clear up the backlog.” The new files are distributed to the other investigating magistrates. The measure, now says the CSM, is wrong in the assumptions, irrational due to the lack of formal communication, confused in the mechanisms it determines for the distribution of files among judges.
The second provision is the one with which, on May 27, four days after the massacre, the president of the investigating judge, Banci Buonamici, “assigns the file to herself with the consent of the president of the court” rather than sorting it to her colleague Annalisa Palomba, as foreseen by the tables established in February. “She was engaged in another hearing,” Banci defends. False, ascertains the CSM: the hearing was over at 13.02 and Palomba was free in the following two days. In any case, other alternate judges could have dealt with it.
The third provision is again from the president of the court, Montefusco: on 7 June, while Banci is about to decide on the request for an evidentiary incident made by the suspects and after the two have had intense conversations, he removes the file and assigns it to Ceriotti , since in the meantime “his exemption is over”. In reality, the provision is “devoid of legal conditions”, poorly motivated, in contrast to the previous ones. This is the most serious of the “multiple violations”, highlighted by the CSM more clearly than the opinion of the Judicial Council of Turin, which also defined the measure as “contradictory, unfounded, incoherent”.
And now? The judicial documents (both by Banci and by Ceriotti, who just yesterday kicked off the evidentiary incident) remain valid. The ball goes back to the president of the court who, “in accordance with” the decision of the CSM, will have to decide who to definitively assign the file to. Another change of judge is possible (and it would be the third one) although in the middle of the probative incident it would end up increasing the problems, creating further reasons for incompatibility in a small judicial office.
As for the CSM, the case is not closed. It could evaluate any reasons for environmental incompatibility between the magistrates involved in the affair and measures on their careers. The communications are on file, together with the Turin hearing, “very rich” according to various sources, of the investigating judge Banci.