Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi To Stand Trial For Allegedly Paying Teen For Sex

Berlusconi's sex scandal will be tried by panel of three judges -- all women.

ByABC News
February 15, 2011, 10:50 AM

ROME, Feb. 15, 2011 -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sent to trial on charges that he allegedly paid to have sex with an underage prostitute and used his position to have her released from police detention when she was picked up for theft.

Milan Judge Cristina Di Censo allowed a request by prosecutors to have Berlusconi tried immediately, in a procedure that skips a preliminary hearing. She set the first hearing for April 6.

The charges against Berlusconi revolve around his relationship with a young Moroccan dancer, Karima El Mahroug, who goes by the stage name of Ruby Rubacuore – Ruby the Heartstealer.

Ruby, now 18, is alleged to have participated in "bunga-bunga" parties at Berlusconi's residence numerous times last year when she was underage, and to have accepted money in exchange for sex.

Ruby told investigators that she attended parties at the prime minister's house and accepted money and other gifts from him, but denies they had sex. Berlusconi, a 74-year-old billionaire, also denies he had sex with Ruby or with any of the young women Berlusconi invited to parties at his various residences in Italy.

News of Berlusconi's bunga-bunga parties with harems of women has been fuel for Italian papers for months, and other women have come forward with stories of lavish dinners replete with expensive gifts that for some ended with sexual encounters with the premier, they claim.

The difference this time is that Ruby was only 17 when she attended the parties and having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years. The abuse of office charge carries a possible sentence of four to 12 years.

Rubygate, as the story has become known in Italy, came to the attention of prosecutors last May when Berlusconi called a Milan police office asking them to release Ruby, who had been picked up for allegedly stealing from a friend. Berlusconi told police officers that Ruby was the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which he says is what Ruby told him. Ruby says she also told Berlusconi she was 23.