Vatican convicts computer tech in leaks scandal

A view of the courtroom of the Vatican tribunal, at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. The public trial of the pope's butler for allegedly stealing and leaking papal correspondence to a journalist began Saturday. Paolo Gabriele, 46, said he acted to shed light on what he called "evil and corruption" in the church.
AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano

Last Updated 8:52 a.m. ET

VATICAN CITY A Vatican court on Saturday convicted a Holy See computer technician of helping the former papal butler in the embarrassing theft of confidential papal documents and gave him a two-month suspended sentence.

Claudio Sciarpelletti, a 48-year-old Italian who is a computer program analyst in the Vatican's Secretariat of State, had testified earlier in the trial that he had played no role in helping to leak the documents, which later formed the core of an Italian journalist's book alleging corruption in high ranks of the Vatican bureaucracy.

Pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was convicted last month in a separate trial for the theft of the documents and is serving a 18-month prison sentence in Vatican City.

Sciarpelletti was convicted of aiding and abetting Gabriele by giving conflicting statements to Vatican investigators about an envelope found in his desk, addressed to Gabriele.

Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre cited Sciarpelletti's long years of service at the Vatican in suspending the sentence as well as ordering that the conviction not appear on his record. The judge, a layman, said the court decided that Sciarpelletti had helped Gabriele `'elude the investigations of the authorities" at Vatican.

The verdict, following an hour of deliberation, was rendered `'in the name of Pope Benedict XVI," Dalla Torre said.

A pool of reporters, which the Vatican permitted to attend the trial, said that Sciarpelletti looked crestfallen. His lawyer, Gianluca Benedetti, indicated that he would appeal.

Vatican investigators had found the sealed envelope, addressed to `'P.Gabriele" and containing documents in Sciarpelletti's office desk. Sciarpelletti's defense had seemed to be strengthened when the prosecutor himself confirmed Benedetti's assertion that the envelope held documents of `'irrelevant value."

Sciarpelletti said Saturday that he never opened the envelope given to him 2 ½ years ago, and insisted that his statements given to investigators were confused because of the `'moral shock" he felt after being arrested and held in a Vatican cell for a day in May.

He also said it is difficult to remember what he did nearly three years earlier, including who gave him the documents.

`'I challenge anyone to recall what he did three years earlier, even on the day of your birthday," Sciarpelletti told the court.

Also on Saturday, two Vatican security officials gave brief testimony. But the pope's top bodyguard, Domenico Giani, didn't come to court, citing security duties involving appearances by Benedict elsewhere at the Vatican, and the judge excused him.