Reporter in trouble for a phone call to a magistrate
Silvio Leoni was subject to a search, the confiscation of his mobile phone and is under investigation for serious offences for telephoning the President of the Court of Assizes of Bologna
The strange story of the journalist Silvio Leoni, editor of the newspaper “Il Secolo d’Italia”, searched and investigated for serious offences for having telephoned the president of Court of Assizes of Bologna Michele Leoni. (same surname as the journalist but not related) has raised alarm, surprise and various solidarity statements, including from Ossigeno (read here)
Three weeks after that phone call, on November 6th 2019, the journalist was subjected to a judicial search. The Carabinieri confiscated his mobile phone and the Ancona public prosecutor began an investigation into him, accusing him of threats and illegal access to computer systems. Twenty days later, before the Review Body of Ancona, these charges were dropped l due to procedural omissions : the magistrate had not reported the fact. But immediately after the conclusion of the hearing, the Ancona Public Prosecutor’s Office charged the journalist with an even more serious accusation, for which he is still being investigated: i.e., violence or threats to a political, administrative or judicial body (article 338 criminal code), an offence punishable with imprisonment up to seven years. With this new charge, the Ancona Public Prosecutor’s Office again confiscated the mobile phone of the journalist who reacted and presented a new appeal to the Review Body against these new measures .
THE FACTS – Michele Leoni is the magistrate who presides over the Court of Assizes of Bologna , the court that is conducting the new trial for the massacre of the 2nd August 1980 at Bologna railway station. Among the defendants, Gilberto Cavallini, formerly of the neo-Fascist NAR (Armed Revolutionary Nuclei), for whom the prosecutor has requested a life sentence. The trial is at a delicate stage..
On the 18th October 2019, at 11.50, Silvio Leoni phoned the magistrate on his mobile phone. He did not know the magistrate personally and it was the first time he telephoned him. Firstly he introduced himself and then tried to ask a question. The magistrate stopped him saying he could not talk about the trial. The communication lasted less than a minute. The tone of the conversation was calm on both sides. Ossigeno has listened to the recording of the call, made by the journalist. Immediately after that phone call, the journalist sent a brief WhatsApp message to the magistrate, writing that he only wanted to compliment him on the balance with which he was presiding over the court.
Silvio Leoni explained to Ossigeno that he had called to tell him that he appreciated his decision to authorize a DNA test on the remains of a victim of the 1980 massacre, thus making it possible to determine if there had been an identification error. “I am a journalist. For many years – Silvio Leoni told Ossigeno – I have been dealing with the trials about the massacres for my newspaper. I have called magistrates on the phone at other times. It is not a crime. In fact, I have never been prosecuted for this “. The journalist admitted that he had never before called an Assize Court president involved in an on-going and important trial. “But here – he added – we are in a crazy situation. If you consider the treatment I received is correct then any journalist who telephones a magistrate can be searched, seized and charged with the crime of threatening a judicial body. I hope that the Review Body will cancel these charges and return my phone”.
THE ALARM OF THE MAGISTRATE – In the period between the phone call and the search of Silvio Leoni, the president Michele Leoni formally reported events that worried him, in particular damage to his car with a breaking of the wing mirror and some scratches and, in the complaint , he recalled having received that phone call from a self-styled journalist whom he did not know. In this regard, the Carabinieri carried out investigations and reported to the prosecutor of Ancona (the one that follows the proceedings involving the magistrates of Bologna) that Silvio Leoni is indeed a journalist from Rome, as he had described himself on the phone. In relation to the events the magistrate’s protection has been strengthened.
THE SEARCH – On November 6th 2019, three Carabinieri officers arrived at the journalist’s house, notifying him of a search warrant and his status as a suspect for threats and unauthorized access to a computer system. “They were very polite and – says Silvio Leoni – they explained to me that they had to confiscate my mobile phone and personal computer. If I had handed it to them, they wouldn’t have to search the whole house. I handed over the phone and explained that I do not have a personal computer, I use the ones in the editorial offices. Immediately afterwards I called my lawyers who help me on a friendly basis and I instructed them to appeal to the Review Body ”.
THE APPEAL – On November 29, the Appeal Court upheld Silvio Leoni’s appeal, cancelling the charges for lack of admissibility (the magistrate’s formal complaint was missing). As a result, the Court decided to return the seized phone on November 6th . However, an hour later, the deputy prosecutor Ilaria Bilotta issued a new charge accusing him of a threat to the judiciary and thus blocked the return of the mobile phone.
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