Infected blood. US reporter sued by Naples prosecutor is acquitted

Kelly Duda thanks Ossigeno who legally assisted him in the trial – He was accused of contempt for criticizing the handling of his testimony given in court in a trial on the blood products scandal

OSSIGENO December 22nd 2022 – The Court of Rome has fully acquitted the American journalist Kelly Duda of charges of contempt of a Naples prosecutor. He was defended in the courtroom by the lawyer. Andrea Di Pietro on behalf of the Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, in collaboration with Media Defence, which has always believed in his innocence. Judge Dionisio Pantano acquitted Kelly Duda because “there is no evidence of an offence”, thus accepting the arguments of the defence.

KELLY DUDA’S COMMENT “Today in Rome is a good day for freedom of expression. Thanks to the legal team of Ossigeno per l’Informazione and the wonderful work of my lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, I have been found not guilty on all criminal charges. Thanks also to Media Defence and Free Press Unlimited. Without the help of these prominent journalists’ rights organizations, I don’t know how I could have dealt with this as an American citizen. Initially I had to undergo two criminal trials. If convicted, I could have been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes I had not committed. The verdict was fair and just and I am grateful to the judge for his decision. All over the world, journalists are increasingly under attack for simply doing their job. Right now, 21 Italian journalists are under 24-hour guard due to threats to their lives. I invite the Italian legislators to review Article 343 of the penal code in order for it to be reformed. I also urge Italian lawmakers to decriminalize defamation. The use of criminal libel and SLAPPs to silence critical voices is a direct threat to freedom and justice for all. There is no freedom without freedom of the press and of speech. Long live Italy and long live freedom!”

OSSIGENO expresses satisfaction with the acquittal of Kelly Duda. “This sentence – declared Alberto Spampinato, president of Ossigeno per l’Informazione – fully recognizes the right to express one’s opinion also regarding the behaviour of prosecutors. In democratic countries, magistrates play an important institutional role, they deserve great respect, but they are not sacred figures and are not immune from criticism. The fact that in Italy it is still necessary to carry out a criminal trial to recognize it makes us reflect”.

WHO IS KELLY DUDA? – He is the author of the acclaimed video documentary “Factor 8” of 2008. Since then he has been the key witness in many criminal trials that have taken place in various countries arising from the scandal of the marketing of infected blood from US prisoner donors suffering from hepatitis B, and used by pharmaceutical companies to produce blood products used in transfusions in various countries, including Italy.

In Italy he was formally accused by Lucio Giuliano of the serious offence of “offending the honour or prestige of a magistrate in court”, because, in Naples, in 2017, at the end of a hearing in the trial on infected blood in which he had testified as an expert witness had criticized Giuliano’s conduct as a prosecutor for his handling of Duda’s testimony.

THE NAPLES TRIAL – On December 4th 2017 Kelly Duda was called by the civil parties (represented by lawyers Bertone and Zancla) to testify in the criminal trial that was underway in Naples against Duilio Poggiolini and the representatives of the pharmaceutical companies which in the 1980s and 90s produced and marketed in Italy blood products (mainly Factor 8) obtained from infected plasma derived in part from blood donated by prisoners in Arkansas prisons.

THE DISPUTED REMARK –Kelly Duda got into trouble for the sentence that he, at the end of the hearing, allegedly addressed to the prosecutor when he went to shake his hand: “In my country what you did today, would be considered a disgrace”. The prosecutor reacted by calling the court police who stopped the journalist and demanded his passport. The magistrate asked for Kelly Duda to be detained for his behaviour, but the charges were not considered such as to justify that. However, the magistrate denounced the journalist for the offence of which he has now been acquitted by the Court of Rome.

THE TESTIMONY – In that hearing in Naples, the defendants’ defence counsel and the public prosecutor Lucio Giuliano had opposed the decision to admit the testimony of Kelly Duda who was present in the courtroom. However, in the end, the testimony was admitted. The reporter made a deposition and was listened to for four hours. As a really informed expert of the affair of infected blood, he helped clarify the dynamics of the events and the roles of some parties involved. During the hearing, he was able to show from his video documentary “Factor 8” an interview with a Dr. Henderson, owner and medical director of Health Management Associates, the US company that acquires and markets blood donated in the Arkansas prisons.

Henderson liaised with the companies that bought donated blood and processed it into blood products. In the interview Henderson declared that in October-November 1982 he went to Italy and met the representatives of a pharmaceutical company based in Rieti whose name he could not remember (it was established  that it was AIMA Plasmaderivati of the Marcucci group based in Rieti) to explain his position on the issue of recalled plasma.

AFTER THAT HEARING – On March 25th  2019, the Court of Naples acquitted Duilio Poggiolini and nine representatives of the Marcucci pharmaceutical group who had been accused of manslaughter for a series of deaths of patients who had had transfusions of plasma produced in the 1980s and 1990s which turned out to be infected. At the time of the distribution of that plasma, Duilio Poggiolini was head of the pharmaceutical sector department of the Italian Ministry of Health. In those years 2,605 Italians were infected and contracted HIV and hepatitis.

The international press, in particular The Guardian, covered the magistrate’s accusation of the US journalist. The case was flagged as a potential “intimidation” on the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists. ASP

Read Also

Kelly Duda, the infected blood scandal and the Factor 8 video investigation

Why has Ossigeno assisted Kelly Duda

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In 7 years 70 journalists helped by the Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno

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