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Second Defendant in Vatican Leaks Case Drops Appeal

by Nicole Winfield, 
Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP)—A computer expert convicted along with the pope’s former butler in the Holy See’s leaks scandal has dropped his appeal, the Vatican said Saturday, signaling an end of sorts to a case that convulsed the Vatican for the past year.

Claudio Sciarpelletti was convicted Nov. 10 of aiding and abetting Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s trusted butler who himself was convicted of stealing the pontiff’s private papers and leaking them to a journalist in one of the Vatican’s gravest security breaches in recent times.

The documents exposed allegations of corruption, homosexual liaisons and internal political intrigues in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

Technically, the investigation into the leaks remains open. But there are no new suspects—and haven’t been for six months—and the two men who were charged in the case have been convicted, sentenced and refrained from appealing.

“This closes a precise part” of the case, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Saturday. “Whether there is particular research going on, I have no current information to give.”

Sciarpelletti, a technical expert in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, had initially appealed his Nov. 10 conviction. But Sciarpelletti subsequently dropped the appeal, perhaps after considering the “benevolent” two-month suspended sentence he received from the Vatican tribunal, Lombardi said.

Sciarpelletti was convicted of obstructing the Vatican’s investigation into Gabriele by changing his story about how he came into possession of an envelope of documents with Gabriele’s name on it.

In its reasons for convicting Sciarpelletti released Saturday, the three-judge tribunal made clear they found Sciarpelletti to be wholly implausible, accusing him of going to extreme lengths to hide the envelope when Vatican police searched his office and downplaying his friendship with Gabriele.

Initially, Sciarpelletti said Gabriele gave the envelope to him. Then he told prosecutors his superior in the Vatican’s information office in the secretariat of state, Monsignor Carlo Maria Polvani, gave it to him for Gabriele. He stressed throughout that his story changed because he simply couldn’t remember who had given him the envelope.

The judges said they believed Sciarpelletti changed his story to help out Gabriele after he was arrested May 23. And they said they found Polvani’s testimony, denying any involvement, “highly believable.”

The embarrassing scandal, and the headline-grabbing nature of the pope’s own butler betraying his boss, convulsed the Vatican for months and prompted the pope to order an investigation by his own cardinals into the origins of the leaks, to work in parallel with Vatican magistrates.

Gabriele is serving an 18-month sentence in a Vatican jail after being convicted of aggravated theft. Lombardi had initially indicated a papal pardon was “concrete, likely” but later backed off, saying only that it was possible.

Subsequently the Vatican’s secretariat of state issued a blistering denunciation of Gabriele’s crime and the damage it caused in violating the Holy See’s code of secrecy, indicating that a pardon wasn’t coming anytime soon.

Asked Saturday whether the closure of both trials signaled an opening for the pope to pardon Gabriele, Lombardi demurred.

“I have no news to communicate about Paolo,” he said.

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