Prosecutors asked an Italian judge today to sentence Silvio Berlusconi to five years in prison for bribing a lawyer, forgetting (or perhaps just wishing to forget) that the ex-prime minister is very good at getting out of jailtime for his cartoonish corruption.
The case at hand today involved the alleged bribery of British lawyer David Mills to the tune of $600,000. Mills is accused of giving false testimony on Berlusconi's behalf during a separate corruption trial that started in 1997. Yes, Berlusconi is being accused of corrupting his own corruption trial, an awfully plausible charge given Berlusconi's and Mills' history of laundering money and evading taxes together.
Now in 2012, with Berlusconi's out of office, that bribery allegation is working its way through Italian courts. "Prosecutors requested prison time as they summed up their case against him Wednesday, and the three-judge court is expected to issue a verdict by late February," reports CNN. However, Berlusconi's lawyers are well-armed with arguments to keep Berlusconi away from prison. Mills' own corruption conviction was overturned in 2010. The judge could also pardon Berlusconi on account of old age (he's 75).
Most pressingly, in a few months the statue of limitations will run out on the 14-year-old bribery charge. Berlusconi has benefited from similar delays in the Italian legal process in the past. As The Economist wrote in June: "Several cases have seen convictions, only for them to be set aside because the convoluted proceedings led to trials being timed out by a statute of limitations—at least twice because Mr. Berlusconi himself changed the law."
So perhaps Berlusconi can run out the clock on this latest round of bribery charges against him. (Deadline is mid-July.) There are however three other trials the ex-PM currently finds himself in. They include charges of tax fraud, pushing a newspaper his brother owns to publish a secret telephone conversation made by a political rival, and paying for sex with an underage prostitute. So prosecutors have a few more chances to get charges to stick -- and Berlusconi has something to occupy him in retirement.