The Brief, Bizarre Start of Berlusconi’s Sex Trial

Time has just published my piece on the media circus surrounding Berlusconi’s 7-minute sex trial.

The television vans had lined up early Wednesday morning. Telephone cables had been laid. Permissions had been secured. More than 150 journalists, from as far away as Russia and New Zealand, had been accredited. They lined the benches in the Milan courthouse and stood four deep in the back, waiting for the start of the trial of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of paying an underage prostitute for sex and abusing his office to cover it up. “It feels like a circus,” said Beppe Severgnini, a columnist for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, who was attending the hearing. “Collectively, as Italians, we feel like clowns. And it’s not a nice feeling.”

At 9:38 a.m. local time, eight minutes behind the scheduled start, a bell rang and everybody stood as the judges walked in. Seven minutes later, court was adjourned. The date for the continuation of the trial was set for May 31. Journalists swarmed forward to glean what news they could from the lawyers. “We certainly thought there would be more substance,” said Paul Hobbs, who had flown in from London for Television New Zealand. “We thought they’d have at least read out the charges.”

Read the rest.