Berlusconi, who served as the country's prime minister from 1994 to 2011, resigned last November after coming under immense pressure to step down for mishandling the Italian economy."Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to seven years in prison over a sex scandal and abuse of power. On Monday, an Italian court in Milan handed Berlusconi the prison term and a lifetime ban from holding public positions, after convicting him of inappropriate relations with an under-age girl and then using his influence in an attempt to cover it up.
“The judges even went beyond the prosecutors' request (for a six-year prison sentence),” said Niccolo Ghedini, one of the lawyers representing Berlusconi.However, according to Italian law, the 76-year-old media tycoon’s sentence would become final only after two levels of court appeals, which could take many years until fruition. Berlusconi’s lawyers announced that they would start an appeal against a verdict that they said was “beyond reality” and "completely illogical." The three-time former prime minister was found guilty of engaging in illegal relations with Karima El Mahroug, known as “Ruby," while she was underage, during parties at his villa at Arcore near Milan, in 2010. Berlusconi was also found guilty of abusing power while in office to release El Mahroug from police custody where she was being held on theft charges. The former Italian premier has been tried some 30 times and convicted three times in a court of law for unrelated incidents. Last October, a lower court convicted Berlusconi of artificially inflating prices of film distribution rights bought by Mediaset to avoid taxes. Berlusconi’s previous charges included Mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribing police officers and judges. Berlusconi, who served as the country's prime minister from 1994 to 2011, resigned last November after coming under immense pressure to step down for mishandling the Italian economy. GMA/SS