The latest hearing in the ongoing trial of the former Getty antiquities curator Marion True took place on 8 February. Both Ms True and her co-defendant, the Paris-based US dealer Robert Hecht, were absent.
The hearing began with a discussion on the admissibility of 40 documents as evidence. Some of these were considered relevant to the trial while others which had been published in the Los Angeles Times were judged inadmissible.
Next, a witness for the prosecution, Maurizio Pellegrini, who works for the archaeological authorities of the Lazio region, took the stand. Federal prosecutor Maurizio Fiorilli began by asking Mr Pellegrini some 10 questions. The defence attorneys repeatedly interjected.
Prosecuting attorney Paolo Giorgio Ferri then introduced another witness, Salvatore Morando, a sergeant with the unit of Carabinieri, Italy’s military police, which is devoted to the protection of the cultural heritage. Mr Morando was part of the team that raided dealer Giacomo Medici’s Freeport warehouse in Geneva. [In 2004, Mr Medici was convicted in Italy of selling looted antiquities and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He remains free pending appeal.]
Mr Morando confirmed what the court had already seen in polaroid photographs: that police had discovered a show-room of antiquities and other spaces in Medici’s Geneva warehouse, including an office where cheques were found on a desk.
There were also cases and bags covered in earth, and crates with the writing “Cerveteri” (an Etruscan site near Rome) across them. These contained antiquities wrapped in Italian newspapers, cameras and unrestored fragments of antiquities. Another space in the warehouse was for frescoes which were laid out on the floor.
Mr Morando also took part in the search of Mr Hecht’s house in Paris in December 2000. When the search team entered, Mr Hecht’s wife pointed to a room in the house where her husband kept all his documents. There, they discovered 50 pages of handwritten “memoirs” with details of illegally acquired objects, grave robbers, dealers and museum curators.
Franco Coppi, Ms True’s lead defence attorney, then claimed that Judge Barbarinaldo was influencing the questioning of Mr Morando. The judge said he acknowledged Mr Coppi’s grievances but emphasised the complexity of the case.
Mr Ferri then showed new evidence from Switzerland. This included documents from various companies based in Geneva discovered during four different searches. The final document revealed a list of names linked to Mr Hecht who were all under investigation for receiving stolen goods.
The next hearing is set for 8 March; witnesses include General Roberto Conforti, former head of the Carabinieri art squad, and the grave robber Pietro Casasanta.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The Marion True trial: in the courtroom'