One of the Bay Area students standing trial in Italy for the murder of a police officer said he was roughed-up in custody, according to a report on Wednesday.
Finnegan Lee Elder, 20, told his dad and lawyer that he was beaten in a Rome police station after his arrest last July for allegedly stabbing a plainclothed cop to death during a drug bust, Agence France-Presse reported.
“They beat me pretty bad …,” Elder said during the Aug. 2, 2019, conversation, which was secretly recorded.
“They threw me to the ground, kicked me, punched me, stood on me, spit on me,” Elder added, saying he was left with bruises on his arms and legs.
A transcript of the conversation was requested by the court as part of Elder’s ongoing trial, and obtained by AFP on Wednesday.
Elder and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 19, stand accused of killing Carabinieri Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega during a scuffle in the early hours of July 26, 2019.
The claim of police brutality comes after a leaked photo showed Natale-Hjorth blindfolded with a scarf and handcuffed at the Rome barracks where he and Elder had been taken for questioning.
Speaking to his dad and American attorney, Elder said he hadn’t been blindfolded like Natale-Hjorth, but that cops “kept my head down a long time,” leaving him unsure of exactly which police station he was in.
“I don’t really remember too well … I was, they had me waiting so long, it’s kind of a blur.”
He added: “They said they would give me 40 years if I didn’t give them my phone password.”
Prosecutors claim that Elder repeatedly plunged a 8-inch “attack-style” knife into Cerciello, while Natale-Hjorth grappled with the officer’s partner nearby.
Cerciello was stabbed 11 times and left bleeding on a deserted street near an upscale hotel in Rome’s Prati neighborhood, where the Americans were staying.
Elder, who was 19 at the time of the slaying, has admitted to stabbing Cerciello, claiming self-defense.
He insists that the cop and his partner, who was also in plain clothes, attacked him and Natale-Hjorth — and he thought he was fighting for his life against drug dealers.
Natale-Hjorth initially told investigators he hadn’t been involved, but his fingerprints were found on a ceiling panel in the hotel room where the students had hidden the knife.
Under Italian law, anyone who participates even indirectly in a murder can face homicide charges.
Defense attorneys claim that Cerciello’s partner, Andrea Varriale, lied in the aftermath of the fatal stabbing — including about whether the cops were armed, as they should have been while on duty.
Asked about the allegations of police brutality, Elder’s father Ethan Elder told AFP: “The awful truth of what Finnegan was subjected to and endured as a terrified 19-year-old is now being revealed to the world.”
“Our hearts break every minute of every hour of every day.”