VATICAN CITY: A Vatican court on Saturday convicted a computer programmer employed by the world’s tiniest state for helping Pope Benedict XVI’s butler engineer a series of leaks that embarrassed the Vatican.
The court handed 48-year-old Claudio Sciarpelletti a suspended sentence of two months in prison with a probationary term of five years, meaning that if he respects the terms of his probation he will likely not have to go to prison.
Sciarpelletti was convicted on a single charge of aiding and abetting, the panel of three judges said in its verdict published by the Vatican press office, adding that the defendant had “helped to deviate the investigations.”
His lawyer, Gianluca Benedetti, said his client will appeal the sentence.
Sciarpelletti’s trial comes just weeks after the disgraced former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for leaking secret memos from the papal residence and spreading gossip about Vatican employees.
Sciarpelletti has worked for the past 20 years in the Secretariat of State — effectively the government of the Roman Catholic Church — and was responsible for maintenance on all the computers used by Vatican employees.
The leaks, which were published in a book by an Italian journalist, revealed fierce infighting in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church and allegations of serious fraud in the running of the Vatican city state.
Gabriele said he had acted out of loyalty to the Church and to root out “evil and corruption” from the Vatican, telling judges at his own trial last month that he believed the pope was poorly informed on important issues.
The apparent ease with which documents were smuggled out of the Vatican has surprised observers, and Italian media reports say there could have been a wider conspiracy of disgruntled employees beyond Gabriele and Sciarpelletti.
Investigators said they found a mysterious envelope with an official Vatican stamp in a drawer in Sciarpelletti’s desk after being tipped off anonymously. It contained copies of some of the documents, which appeared in the book.
Sciarpelletti said he never opened the envelope but was unclear about who had given it to him, initially telling investigators it was Gabriele and later saying he had received it from a prelate named only as “W” in court documents.