Knox prosecutor convicted of abusing office

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by LINDA BYRON / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @LByronK5

KING5.com

Posted on January 22, 2010 at 7:05 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 22 at 8:14 PM

SEATTLE - Italian Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini successfully convinced a jury that Amanda Knox masterminded the slaying of her former British housemate, Meredith Kercher, during a drug fueled sex game.

Knox was convicted of murder in December and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Her conviction was a personal victory for Mignini, who is the Public Minister of Perugia and a powerful prosecutor.

But now a judge in Florence has convicted Mignini of abuse of power in a previous murder case.

Knox’s stepfather, Chris Mellas, says the charges against Mignini are significant even if they are not related Knox’s case.

"They show that he's willing to break the law in order to do, to pursue his ideas. I think that’s very serious when you consider the fact that he’s one that’s supposed to be upholding the law," said Mellas.

The judge sentenced Mignini to one year and four months in prison, but suspended the sentence pending an appeal. It appears unlikely Mignini will be removed from office, but Italian legal experts say it’s a blow to his credibility just as Knox’s legal team is about to begin her appeal.

Mignini's conviction is related to an unsolved serial murder case that goes back to the 1970s and 1980s. Seven couples were killed in the Tuscan hills and the killer, dubbed “The Monster of Florence,” was never caught. A judge ruled Mignini crossed the line when he wire-tapped police and journalists in his zeal to find the killer after the case was re-opened.

American crime writer Doug Preston came up against Mignini while living in Italy and researching a book about the "Monster of Florence" case.

"He (Mignini) decides right up front with almost no evidence, based on his gut feeling or intuition, that you're guilty and then sets out to prove it," Preston said in an interview last June.

Preston said that when he and his co-author, Mario Spezi, disagreed with Mignini’s investigation, the prosecutor accused them of being involved in a conspiracy with the killers.

Knox’s legal team alleges that Mignini and police forced Knox to confess during a 14-hour interrogation. Mignini denies the allegations and says Knox gave her signed statements willingly.

Knox was a student from the University of Washington doing a study abroad program in Perugia when Kercher was killed in November 2007.

Italian lawyer Alessandro Canali, who lives in Gig Harbor but also practices in Rome, says this new development could sway public opinion and possibly the jurors who will hear Knox’s appeal.  The appeals trial is expected to take place in Perugia next fall and jurors are selected from the local community.

"The conviction highly criticized the way he managed his investigations, even if related to another case,” Canali said. “So people now could now start thinking maybe Amanda Knox was right and something didn't work during the investigation."

KING 5 News interviewed Mignini last October in Perugia. When asked if he should be allowed to prosecute Knox's case even as he faced prosecution himself, Mignini said that he was confident he would be fully exonerated.

"Who has examined my case did not suspend me, because they saw no basis to suspend me from my job,"  Mignini said through a translator.

Mignini said that he felt  the charges against him were related to a power struggle between competing jurisdictions. After the hearing in Florence Friday, Mignini is quoted by the SeattlePI.com as saying "I am shocked. It was totally unexpected."

Mignini is expected to appeal his conviction.

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