American Girls Arrested In Italy for Vandalizing Roman Colosseum

When I read the headline, I had to click and read the article because I could not imagine that people would vandalize such a historic site and building. I was wrong. Two American girls, one twenty-one and the other twenty-five years of age, decided to add their own historical element to the Roman Colosseum by carving their initials into a wall. I guess getting the cheesy t-shirts that said “We were at the Roman Colosseum and all we got were these stinking shirts” was not  a good enough reminder. Instead they wanted to leave a lasting impression of their presence for all future visitors to enjoy.

It is also reported that the two women memorialized evidence of their criminal activity by posing for a selfie next to their initials. The online article did not say whether the photo was posted on social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Google +, but if there are reports of a photo, it makes one think that the police at a minimum searched the phone and would have discovered such damning evidence.

Criminal Mischief Charges

When a person causes damage to the property of another person in Pennsylvania, charges of Criminal Mischief under 18 Pa.C.S.A. §3304 are filed. The severity of the Criminal Mischief charge is generally based upon the value reduction or loss of the property that was damaged. The charge can be as severe as a felony of the third degree if the value of the loss exceeds $5,000.00, and a third-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of seven years incarceration and a $15,000.00 fine. The felony conviction would carry collateral consequences, such as a prohibition on the possession of a firearm and possible exclusion from being employed by the Federal government or getting Federal loans. If the value of the loss was less than $5,000.00, then the charge would likely be graded as some level of a misdemeanor offense. A felony charge for intentionally causing damage to the property would carry a recommended sentence as low as probation but up to 9 months in a jail if the person had no prior record, with the recommended sentence increasing if the person had a prior record score.

To me, the issue in this case would not be in proving whether or not the girls carved their initials into the rocks, the issue would be the severity of the charge of Criminal Mischief based upon the value of the loss. What is the loss in intentionally causing damage to a priceless, historic site? Then again, the girls caused minimal damage to a very large site, which arguably reduces the value of the loss incurred. It is not like they spray painted their initials onto the Mona Lisa painting and thereby completely ruined the painting. Visitors to Rome can still enjoy the Colosseum and probably would not even be aware of the damage.

Italian Criminal Charges for Vandalism

The Italian authorities charged the American girls with “aggravated damage” on a building of historical and artistic interest. Online articles state that a Russian had been similarly charged in the relatively recent past for the same conduct, and, after being convicted of the offense, he was sentenced to a fine of approximately $21,000.00 and given a four-month suspended sentence. As a criminal defense attorney that frequently represents college students from Penn State and Lock Haven, I routinely make arguments to try and keep my clients from spending time in jail because the client is young and made a very stupid decision. For example, students that are caught smoking marijuana in their dorms are charged with misdemeanor possession and could actually be sent to jail. The punishment must fit the crime. If I were the judge in this case, I believe that I may be inclined to issue a sentence that included a few days in jail. To me, there is a big difference in carving your initials on a local tree or spray painting your name on a nearby bridge and traveling overseas and causing damage to a historic site. I doubt that the girls are bad kids, but there are times that a small amount of jail time or in-home detention can act as a deterrent.