(CBS/AP) Italian prosecutors have requested that Premier Silvio Berlusconi stand trial over accusations he paid for sex with a then 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer named Ruby Rubacuori, and used his influence to cover it up.
The prosecutors filed their request in Milan. A judge must now decide whether to accept the prosecutors' request and indict the 74-year-old leader, or dismiss it. Prostitution is legal In Italy, but it is illegal to pay for sex with someone under the age of 18.
Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing, calling the investigation "disgusting" on Wednesday and accusing prosecutors of seeking to damage his government.The prosecutors are seeking an immediate trial because they believe there is overwhelming evidence against the premier. The procedure allows prosecutors to skip the preliminary-hearing phase and go straight to court.
They allege that Berlusconi paid for sex with the Moroccan girl, who has since turned 18, then used his influence to get her out of police custody when she was detained for the suspected theft of about $4,000. Berlusconi allegedly feared her relationship to him would be revealed.
Ruby ultimately was released into the custody of a Berlusconi aide who also is under investigation.
The prosecution said in a statement that they didn't believe the alleged crime was committed in the exercise of Berlusconi's institutional duties.
The child prostitution charge carries a possible prison sentence of six months to three years; the abuse of influence charge, which experts say is more dangerous for Berlusconi, carries a possible sentence of four to 12 years.
Dozens of his supporters rallied against the prosecution's decision, some waving Italian flags in a demonstration across the street from the Milan courthouse entrance.
In a surreal backdrop to the soap opera-like story, Berlusconi himself was giving a news conference in Rome on his plans to relaunch the Italian economy with great public works when word of the indictment request came down.