By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
Published: November 04, 1998
The co-conspirators with Mr. Gucci‘s former wife, Patrizia Reggiani, were also convicted by a jury in Milan. The hit man who shot Mr. Gucci in 1995 was given a life sentence. Mrs. Reggiani’s personal psychic, Guiseppina Auriemma, who first contacted the killers, was given 25 years. Two other accomplices also got heavy sentences.
”Evidently, they didn’t believe me,” a stricken Mrs. Reggiani, 50, said moments after her verdict was read out. As guards began escorting her back to her cell, she muttered, ”Truth is the daughter of time.”
The verdict was eagerly awaited in a country that followed the Gucci trial, as it became known when it opened last May, as the ultimate real-life soap opera. The case brought together some of the country’s favorite obsessions: sex, money, designer footwear and astrology. Mrs. Reggiani’s personal psychic admitted that she hired the killers, but insisted that she did so at her client’s instruction.
Lawyers for Mrs. Reggiani said that while she had loudly broadcast her desire to see her ex-husband dead, she did not actually carry out her threats. Mrs. Auriemma, they argued, acted on her own, then blackmailed Mrs. Reggiani. Mrs. Reggiani said in a cross-examination that she was forced to pay $365,000, then added, somewhat confusingly, ”It was worth every penny.”
One of her chief lawyers, Giovanni Maria Dedola, said today, ”I guess the jurors were not susceptible to our arguments.” Prosecutors had sought a life sentence, the most severe punishment in Italy, which does not have a death penalty. Mrs. Reggiani is scheduled to remain in prison, but her lawyers say they will ask that she be placed under house arrest pending an appeal.
Mrs. Reggiani’s friends were stunned by the 29-year-sentence. ”I think that is an extremely heavy sentence considering that child murderers get even less,” said Jennifer Gucci, the former wife of Paolo Gucci, a cousin of the murder victim. ”I would have thought they would take her brain injury into consideration.” Mrs. Reggiani had surgery for a brain tumor in 1992.
Today, hours before the verdict was reached, Mrs. Reggiani made her final plea of innocence, saying she was a naive victim of her astrologer’s greed. ”Never let even a friendly fox into the chicken coop,” she told the jurors, referring to Mrs. Auriemma. ”Sooner or later it could get hungry.”
Before her divorce from Mr. Gucci, Mrs. Reggiani was one of the more extravagant members of the Italian jet set. She was famous for having once said, ”I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.” Mrs. Reggiani continued to be outspoken even after her husband was shot outside his Milan office in 1995, telling friends and even reporters that she had wanted him dead. After she was arrested in 1997, the Italian newspapers quickly dubbed her the Black Widow.
Mrs. Reggiani’s lawyers argued that Mrs. Reggiani’s threats were the ramblings of a mentally disturbed woman, maintaining that her physical illness took away her critical faculties. But their hopes that a judge would rule her unfit for trial were dashed a few weeks ago when a psychiatric panel concluded that Mrs. Reggiani was mentally competent at the time of the murder and well enough to stand trial.
Last week, for the first time, her two daughters, Alessandra, 21, and Allegra, 17, sat near her in court, weeping and kissing their mother. Mrs. Reggiani’s mother, Silvana Barbieri, who is being investigated on charges of having known about the murder plot, also sat in court.
Gucci family members did not put in an appearance. Maurizio Gucci, who inherited half of the family business after his father died in 1983 and fought and exchanged lawsuits with his relatives, was not deeply mourned. He spent his own and his company’s income so freely that after repeated losses he was forced to sell his shares to a Bahrain-based investment group, Investcorp, in 1993.
When Mr. Gucci was killed, he was living with his mistress, Paola Franchi, an interior designer, and trying to re-establish himself as a businessman by, among other things, investing in a casino in Switzerland.
At first, the police thought that his murder was linked either to Gucci family feuds or his new-found casino ties. Finally, an anonymous tip led police to a hotel porter, Ivano Savioni, who had been contacted by Mrs. Auriemma and who helped her hire the gunman, Benedetto Ceraulo, as well the driver of the getaway car, Orazio Cicala. Mr. Savioni was given a 26-year sentence today. Mr. Cicala was given a 29-year sentence.
Among the evidence prosecutors presented in court was Mrs. Reggiani’s diary. In it she wrote, ”There is no crime that money cannot buy.” On the day Mr. Gucci was shot, there was a single word entry: ”Paradeisos,” the Greek word for ”paradise.”
- Gucci ‘Black Widow’ Patrizia Reggiani inspires musical (fashion.telegraph.co.uk)
- Patrizia Released from Prison – Prelude to the Mrs Gucci Concert (mrsgucci.wordpress.com)