Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Destructive Partying Of American Kids Leaving Italians Seriously Baffled

Posted by Fiori

George Lesser reports on a wild student scene. Click above to read his report

1) One incident: a callous and unexplainable death

In a bizarre incident, criminal charges have been filed against an American student in Florence. According to the police, she and a friend tried to trespass onto the grounds of a large, private villa.

A guard tried to stop them. There was a scuffle, and the friend received a knife wound in the leg. There was no firm indication whose knife it was.

The student and her friend walked a short distance to a public bench. He laid down, and she sat beside him. He slowly bled to death, with her sitting beside him with an unused cell phone.

Apparently she made no effort to help him, and she now claims she was so drunk she cannot remember anything.

The Italian authorities don’t know how to deal with her. Her inability to aid in her own defense is something they have not experienced.

2) And one insight into what might be going on:

A lawyer in Florence for one American college is asked about the problem.

The answer: “You think alcohol is the problem? I’ll tell you what the real problem is. They’re all on [prescription medications].

They’re all on Ritalin, or lithium, or anti-depressants, and they stop taking them, or they take them erratically.”

[And] they neglect to follow up on their referrals to local psychiatrists, raising liability concerns.

Smartening up over liability concerns? Yes, that might save some American parents some very big bucks.

And have them riding herd on behavior….


A State Department contact tells us that around 3000 American students are arrested abroad each year now, and that the Embassies are really not set up to provide much help to kids who get themselves into this kind of trouble.

It seems there is a feeling at State, which is funded by the rest of us taxpayers, that this is mainly a parent problem, and that parents can help their kids a lot in the first place by ensuring a supportive framework..

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/24/09 at 09:49 PM | #

Strange how one story leads to another.  Turns out the young man in the Florence incident was the son of a prominent Minnesota businessman, and a foundation was established in his name.  Couldn’t find any information on the girl though….


Posted by Sierra1049 on 03/24/09 at 09:58 PM | #

Peter, I lived in Florence for 8 years, The only thing that is difficult to explain is why there are not far more incidents like those in Perugia and Florence.

A shocking/amusing/sad experience is when a group of American girl students come and sit near you; they hear you talking Italian, and will assume you don’t understand what they are talking about ...  just listen (you’ve not much choice, they scream at each other) the attitude is unbelievable. Pissing in the piazza is nothing.

Combine these with with people with the mindset of, say, Guede, Sollecito, or Kolomani,  and you can imagine the results?. Often, sadly, if 2 girls are together it is the relatively quiet one who will come off worse. After a while, you only intervene in an incident when it is clearly not the girl’s fault (very rare) or it is so serious that it is potentially life threatening.

It is the completely self centered attitude that is so shocking, letting someone bleed to death is the ultimate manifestation of this. You can be sure that if they needed money sent via Western Union from home ... those cell phones would be working overtime.

Overhearing Italian girls saying things that they would never say in front of a man is just amusing and sometimes quite cute .... almost from another world.

Back to the trial:

If Knox was on medication, before coming to Europe, would the court hear about it, or would that only happen after a conviction?. The same would be true for her conviction for the near riot in Seattle?. I have read that she also broke the nose of a boy who upset her sister .. did that result in a conviction?

There is an account of a witness hearing a man and a woman arguing at the house at around 2 am. If there was a row, and we can assume that the cleanup started at night (given the presence of Knox’s tablelight on the Meredith’s bedroom floor) then perhaps we could have a scenario which has:

1. Knox and Guede committed the murder ... only one set of footsteps were heard running up the iron stairs, whilst the other can be assumed to be Guede, running in the other direction.

2. Knox runs to Sollecito and tells him there has been a fight.

3. Around 2 am Knox and Sollecito go to the house, RS finds something far worse than he expected and a row breaks out.

4. Knox tells him ‘help me - or I frame you’

Incidentally, RS has had his interview with the University of Verona about doing his post grad in IT today.

Posted by Kevin on 03/25/09 at 12:06 AM | #

Hi Kevin,

The scenario that Raffaele Sollecito was just involved in the clean up and staging of the burlary isn’t remotely credible.

Sollecito couldn’t give the police a credible alibi despite three attempts. There’s a very good explanation why he couldn’t give the police a credible alibi: he was at the cottage when Meredith was murdered. He was with Knox shortly before Meredith was killed and was seen afterwards by an eyewitness who is considered credible and reliable by Judge Paolo Micheli. I don’t believe that Sollecito was conveniently elsewhere between these two times. More importantly, Sollecito cannot prove he was elsewhere.

When Sollecito admitted that he had lied to the police, he was given another opportunity to tell the them the truth. He very tellingly chose to deliberately and repeatedly lie again. If he hadn’t been with Knox at the cottage, he would have been able to provide the police with a credible alibi. The judge and the jury will rightly conclude that he was at the cottage and involved in Meredith’s murder.

I believe that if one of the three had played a lesser role, they would have come clean months ago. The fact that all three are still lying about what happened that night tells me that they all played very active roles in the fatal attack on Meredith.

The double DNA knife that was used to stab Meredith was taken from Sollecito’s kitchen. It’s highly unlikely it was taken without his knowledge or permission.

The autopsy reports and detailed analysis of the crime scene by the Violent Crime Analysis Unit of the scientific police led them to conclude that Meredith was attacked by three people. They believe that Knox wielded the knife, Guede sexually assaulted Meredith and Sollectio restrained her.

The police and forensic experts are highly qualifed, extremely experienced professionals who have had full access to the crime scene and autopsy reports. Judge Paolo Micheli carefully studied their reports and accepted their conclusions that Knox, Sollecito and Guede were all involved in Meredith’s murder. I trust their professional judgements.

When the prosecutors reveal the details about the six separate pieces of forensic evidence that link Sollelcito to the crime scene, the picture should be much clearer.

It’s probably best to wait and hear what Signora Nara has to say about what she heard or saw that night at the trial. So far, there have only been extracts of her testimony. She heard at least two people running away from the cottage. Would she have been able to distinguish whether there was one or two people running on the gravel?

Posted by The Machine on 03/25/09 at 03:32 AM | #

As an American I am ashamed for the situations described above and have no reason to doubt them. 

We see the exact same behavior on our campuses and mostly from the “elite” group associated with fraternities and sorority living.  Rape is very common as well, and girls too drunk and too ashamed do not report them.

Amanda did have a rowdy party incident before she left Seattle.  I do not know the details except I heard she was fined $300; charges were not pressed since none of the gentlemen football players were cited.

I would highly suggest those foreign areas with a high incident rate of this nature decline most American students who apply. Fill the spots with other nationalities. If there is a pattern of abuse to the community, break the pattern. I wouldn’t tolerate it.

Like I said, I am embarrassed for the US producing such poor ambassadors, but I do know there are a great many well behaved and contributing youth as well.  Thank you for the article and posting privilege.

Posted by Professor Snape on 03/25/09 at 10:20 AM | #

Kevin, your always-very-relevant takes from your years in Italy (I hadn’t realized thery were Florence) are authentic and interesting, and provide us with some really key insights in the process of sorting out this great puzzle.

Here’s the thing. As Nicki and others who live there have described for us, the anti-Italy and ant-Mignini campaign has not gone over well in Italy, where rowdy American students, vengeful American justice, and strong-arming American foreign policy under Bush were already at the front of public perceptions. 

And now the PR campaign proposes to send a jumbo-jet load of character witnesses to the trial, to say what a wonderful and balanced person Amanda Knox was back in her home town.

I can imagine many Italians will be thinking if not saying what many Americans for sure (especially around New York) will be saying: gimme a break…

This by the way is from an email, with the writer’s okay: “Things seem to have changed a lot since the mighty 80’s when I was going to college. Or perhaps living abroad since 1988 has changed my perspective, I don’t know. But I can say that many of them are embarassing, to say the least, and surely very immature and childish when compared to their European counterparts.”

Meredith was of course a European counterpart.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/25/09 at 02:26 PM | #

Sierra1049, an interesting Wikipedia reference - but believe it or not, that case is not the one, just very very similar. This one is still ongoing.

The owner has not yet been tried, and they are still trying to figure out how to handle the girl who has been charged.

This description from the Italian media of what happened is from Nicki who often posts here from Italy:


I’ve found the news. It’s a very sad story. The couple trespassed and the owner’s daughter saw them and asked them to leave.

They probably didn’t understand and walked up the stairs to the entrance door. At this point the owner came out with a knife, alerted by his daughter, and grabbed the American girl’s arm and told her they had to leave.

As soon as he did so, the boy attacked him and pushed him to the ground, so he knifed him in self defense. The two kids dragged themselves outside the park, and she watched him died because she was too drunk to dial 112 - she dialed 332 instead.

When the ambulance and police arrived, alerted by the owner, the kid was agonizing (the femural artery had been slashed, it only takes a short time to bleed to death).

The owner is desperate, he was crying his eyes out, said he thought they were two criminals. He is now in jail, charged with manslaughter, but his lawyer hopes they will turn the charge to “excess of self defense”.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/25/09 at 02:48 PM | #


I’ve often wondered what Perugia must have been like when one of your nieghbours, Suze Rotolo ... Bob Dylan’s girlfriend at the time, studied there in the early 1960’s ?. Must of been good if she prefered it to hanging around with one of the biggest rock stars ?. It certainly was responsible for some good lyrics?.

I now live just over the border in Switzerland but still spend a lot of time in Italy.

Professor Snape

To ban American students from these colleges would be a great pity, it should be the experience of a lifetime. The colleges probably do try to warn of the dangers, but the students are adults. The girls often completely misread the type of guys who hang around them, they simply can’t imagine that everyone doesn’t think they are wonderful, which if you’ve met the guys, you know is the total opposite. The only change I’ve noticed recently is that, like in the UK, girls are far more likely to be the first to violence, rather than causing it.

The machine,

From what we have learnt so far, there are only 2 possible senarios I can imagine. That all three committed the murder is by far the most likely, I agree.

The alternative senario I outline still makes RS guilty of letting Meredith bleed to death, he had time to call the emergency services. That, plus the clean up, makes him equally guilty?.

If he was ‘only’ involved in the coverup, why would he lie?.

1. He was so arrogant that he ignored his father’s advise not to carry his own knife when he went to the police station, believing that he could get away with the whole thing.

2. When he realised that the police were not as stupid as he thought, he said Knox left him for part of the evening.

I think the only way he could be found guilty of ‘lesser charges’ would be if the there is no physical evidence for him being involved in the actual murder, Kolomani is completely discredited, and that he provides a detailed plausible account of what happened.

Knowing that ‘lesser charges’ are likely to see him locked up for a very long time, it looks like his defense is waiting to see what happens during the trial, before deciding how to play it.

Returning to the suggestion that American students should be banned, I wouldn’t like to deny anybody the chance of experiencing all the good things that Italy offers, it would be a little like allowing the 19 911 murderers to ‘change the world’?.

Posted by Kevin on 03/25/09 at 05:16 PM | #

Kevin: Suze Rotolo for you. A verrry famous record cover. I see that the shot was taken in 1963 when she was 20, after she returned from Perugia.

She was interviewed here last year and there is a review of her memoir here.

I see she is at the elite Parsons School of Design here. Maybe I’ll drop her a note, and ask what Perugia in the sixties was like, see if she will write for us. If Perugia was like the US in the LATE sixties… well, that sorta seems like it is today.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/25/09 at 05:57 PM | #

Travelling and studying abroad is a privilege not a right.
I understand I have an unpopular position but the article and the comments indicate this is a very serious matter with constant problems where American students are sorely disrespectful to their host countries/towns.  When your fellow countrymen or women make such asses out of themselves the entire town comes to despise their presence I say keep them home.  Let them enjoy the world when they are mature enough to behave in the same manner.  But a “ban?”  I don’t think so.
What I am suggesting is for schools to re-evaluate their screening and acceptance process.  The problem is on their doorstep and they need to figure out what measures, if any they COULD or would want to take.  Accepting less American students and filling their classrooms with respectful students from neighboring countries seems to me would be a policy to help foster balance in the community.  But I am not in the education business and I bet you are all the more glad for it!

It would be splendid if parents would police the actions of their children better or at the least monitor their behavior WHILE THEY ARE UNDER THEIR CARE so we are not faced with this issue.  Just because they are overseas doesn’t mean “out of sight out of mind” – they should set a mature example, provide some level of expectations and place adequate boundaries on their behavior.  They must be willing to make the consequences sting if their child fails at maintaining the level they have set the bar.

Knox was only there for just a very short time.  I think she would have flown under the radar of any revised admittance policy.  Perhaps a red flag would have been raised with her being only mere hours away when she applied.  Wasn’t she in Germany?  How much thought and haste went into her decision? How “sound” of a risk would this person have to the school and community?  I won’t knock the program because I trust there are many fine students who don’t abuse it.

I don’t feel for a moment Edda was unaware of just how messed up her daughter was.  I believe she was unwilling to invest her time and more money in finding a way to properly support her.
Unfortunately Knox’s parents did a poor job raising their daughter measured by a very low bar.  We witness this in their own communication to the media and their racism, threats and bully behavior on these message boards and blogs.  If her parents do not demonstrate a mature and balanced life I seriously doubt they expect it from their children.  If she parrots their behavior it’s going to get very interesting.

We see how Knox was active in sports and appears outgoing and smart.  What I have not heard nor seen is how the family rallied around her and personally supported her.  (Banging PR frying pans does not count.)  I know in my family when our daughter was in 11 + 12 grade she was a cheerleader.  We went to almost every event in those 2 years with many times videotaping the squad for her.  We did not participate as coaches but there to lend our support.  For the most part other parents did not show up.  Were we over doing it? I think not.  It was her choice to take up such a “sport” but our presence made a difference.  The same can be said for reading to her every night at bedtime.  She remembers that and chances are good she will also read to her children. 

If a child is left to fend for themselves and “stay busy” under their own accord - knowing in their heart their parents could care less what they are doing I am guessing this could damage their self esteem and question their self worth. Is this what happened to AK?

I don’t pretend to have the solution for the bad seeds overseas; we have plenty of them in our schools, too.  It’s really up to the administrators and if I WERE ONE I would be frustrated by the system and I would feel very sick over the murder of Meredith Kercher.  They must wonder what more they could have done and it seems it happened so fast no one may have been able to remove Knox from the picture quick enough.

Professor Snape

Posted by Professor Snape on 03/26/09 at 08:17 PM | #
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