Writer Douglas Preston Arrested

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Linda Adams

Writer Douglas Preston Arrested

Postby Linda Adams » Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:19 pm

Linda Adams

Writer Douglas Preston Arrested

Postby Linda Adams » Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:19 pm

This was sent to me via the International Thriller Writer newsletter. I imagine it will be in the newspaper or the trades in the next few days.

Doug Preston Arrested & Charged in Italy;
Mario Spezi Still Under Investigation

Douglas Preston, our fellow author and the co-chair of ITW's Membership Committee, recently returned from Italy, where he was arrested, interrogated by Italian police, ultimately charged with perjury, and accused (but not charged) with being an accessory to murder. The shocking incident arose from his coauthoring a book with Italian journalist Mario Spezi, in which they report on their probe into a never-solved serial-killer case.

The book is due to be published in April in Italy and later in the United States. Comparatively speaking, Doug got off easy; Spezi is still there, accused of and being investigated for murder, with his livelihood, career, and life in jeopardy.

Doug spent most of last week trying to aid Spezi. He told Karen Dionne of Backspace, "I've been having trouble enlisting the help of PEN and other organizations that defend freedom of the press, because my friend hasn't actually been arrested yet -- 'only' accused. Somehow it doesn't seem as urgent, especially when journalists are being killed in other parts of the world. But I have hopes of creating enough of a stir to embarrass the Italian authorities. They're very sensitive to opinion in the United States. It's incredible that in a civilized country such as Italy, a journalist can be accused of trumped-up murder charges because he dared challenge a powerful judge. I just happened to be a bystander who was caught in the crossfire."

After our note to you is an account Doug sent to Susan Henderson for her Publishers Marketplace blog. Please feel free to forward this Bulletin and/or Doug's essay to anyone you think can help publicize this outrageous situation.

Doug can be reached at dpreston@tidewater.net.

Gayle Lynds & David Morrell
ITW co-presidents

From Douglas Preston:

For the past five years, I have been working with an Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, on a book about the case of a serial killer known as the Monster of Florence, who murdered fourteen people in the hills of Florence from 1974 to 1985. The Monster has never been caught and the case is still open. It has become the longest-running and most expensive criminal investigation in modern Italian history. Our book, which will be published in Italian in Italy in April and later in America in English, faults the investigation and specifically criticizes the chief Examining Magistrate of Perugia, Giuliano Mignini, and the chief prosecutor, Michele Giuttari, who are in charge of one branch of the investigation.

I went to Italy on Feb. 14 with my family on vacation and to do some work with Spezi on the book. I was taken into custody by the police on Feb. 22. I was brought before Giuliano Mignini. There I was aggressively interrogated for three hours by him and three police detectives. I was asked about my relationship with Spezi and questioned in great detail about our journalistic activities, our theories, thoughts, and beliefs in the case. When I explained that my activities as an investigative journalist were privileged, Mignini shouted that this wasn't about freedom of the press, but was about a criminal matter of the "utmost seriousness," and that if I didn't answer the questions fully I would be arrested and charged with perjury. I was forced to answer the questions under the threat of arrest -- which I did.

Mignini then proceeded to play back telephone conversations I had had with Spezi, which they had wiretapped. He played the same passages again and again, demanding to know what we were "really" talking about, demanding that I explain the "real meaning" behind every casual word we had exchanged. They had also recorded conversations we had had in Spezi's car, which had been broken into and bugged -- Spezi found the bug yesterday. When I asked if I was being accused of a crime, Mignini said he believed I had committed not one but several serious felonies -- to whit: planting evidence to frame an innocent man, obstruction of justice, and being an accessory to murder -- all utterly false accusations.

Despite answering their questions fully and truthfully, in the end they charged me with "reticenza" and "false testimonianze" -- two serious crimes of perjury -- but said the charges would be suspended to allow me to leave Italy, to be reinstated later. In other words, it seems their goal was to get me out of Italy -- never to return.

The timing of this is not surprising. Our book will be published on April 19. The police had earlier obtained a draft of the book which they had seized in a search of Spezi's apartment, and so Mignini and Giuttari know well what we have written about him. This was a naked attempt to use the power of the state to intimidate and silence two journalists, and it may be a prelude to a legal action in Italy to block publication of the book.

After the interrogation, the police raided Spezi's apartment (for a third time -- he'd been raided twice before) and took away many documents. They also broke into Spezi's car and planted a microphone, which he later found. Following that, the police apparently leaked details of their investigation to the press, and articles in Corriere della Sera, La Nazione, and Il Giornale, about my interrogation and the search and seizure of Spezi's papers. The police also leaked the information that Spezi was suspected of involvement in several murders and that he may be connected to the Satanic sect which the police believe was behind the Monster of Florence serial killings.

We desperately need to publicize this attack on journalistic freedom. I'm back in America and safe, but Spezi is at grave risk. His financial health, his career, and his very freedom are at risk. Yesterday he wrote to me: "Io sono molto depresso, per avere fatto il nostro dovere, mi ritrovo in questa situazione." ... "It is very depressing that, for having done my duty as a journalist, I find myself in this situation."

Please -- something must be done as soon as possible. Anyone wishing more information about the case may contact me at dpreston@tidewater.net.

Some background on myself -- I'm a journalist who writes for the New Yorker magazine, and I've published fourteen books and won numerous awards. I'm on the board of the Author's Guild. I mention these details only to establish my credentials. In my entire journalistic career I have not experienced the kind of abuse of prosecutorial power as I witnessed in Italy.

Douglas Preston

Commander in Chief
Posts: 8276
Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2005 12:11 pm

RE: Writer Douglas Preston Arrested

Postby Jamesaritchie » Wed Mar 08, 2006 1:33 am

It's really dificult to know what to make of this from hearing only one side of the story. I know what Preston thinks and believes, but I have no idea why the police believe what they do, what evidence they have, or how they view things. Sounds like a case for the legal system, to me.

And it sure doesn't sound like this is going to hurt the sales of his book any. Sounds like great porotion for a book, in fact.


RE: Writer Douglas Preston Arrested

Postby Jumbie » Wed Mar 08, 2006 5:51 am

Seems that Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are American ideals that don't translate well to Italian.

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