The Penthouse Letter (i.e. The Verdict)

How’s that for an attention-grabbing headline? But it’s not what you think. In fact, it’s kind of dark comedy and in line with much of my experience with the Italian courts. Somehow, I made it through three months of waiting for April 22 to arrive – the day of my rescheduled pretrial hearing where I’d find out if I was headed to trial that summer (2010) or if everything I had done would be dismissed. My father had come to visit me for a few weeks to help me with a housing nightmare with our local and corrupt building department in Hoboken. I had unknowingly run afoul of a very bad building official and he was doing his best to ruin my home and peace of mind. That story alone could be a book by itself, but suffice it to say, my father had come to handle him and everything else I couldn’t. To be frank, I couldn’t handle much.

I love my father so much and we just get along really well. Having him there was such a comfort and knowing he’d be there when I got word of the April 22 hearing was a great relief. I needed all the support I could get even though my friends had been rocks for me.

I remember the morning of April 22 clearly. I received an email from my attorney that he was headed to Rome and expected to be out by noon my time. I had an all-day press event with Ice Cube, filmmaker for one of my company’s films. We’d be running all over town doing media interviews before that night’s world premiere red carpet event. I’d be going a full day with nowhere to hide out if I received bad news.

I obsessively checked my hotmail practically every minute. And it was hard to concentrate but running all over NYC provided a sort of flow to my day that kept my brain running and time passed quickly. Around noon, we were at an interview on the penthouse rooftop of a place in SoHo, when the email popped into my inbox. The subject line read: HEARING REPORT.  The first sentences appeared: ”

“Dear Keri,

Today Marco XX bargained 11 months and 10 days of prison…”

I let out a high-pitched squeal which momentarily disrupted the shoot, and I went scurrying inside to read the email. I could have cared less at disrupting the interview. I remember how badly my hands were shaking and how hard it was to push the buttons on my BlackBerry.  I scrolled down, tears in my eyes, absorbing the fact he had received JAIL TIME.

“Dear Keri,

Today Marco XX bargained 11 months and 10 days of prison…under probation.

The Public Prosecutor has approved the bargained punishment without any kind of restore of the damages: as I wrote you yesterday, is something that she can do, and she did, even if in the past and today before the hearing, I ve stressed the need to have at least a partial restore.

Now we can decide to ask Marco the restore of damages but, as I wrote you yesterday, we have to do it with a separate civil action: now we take our time, we wait and we will discuss this option in the following days.

I’m not happy of this ending, I was confident that Mrs Dito would have pushed upon Marco’s lawyer and I’ve taken actions to try to reach this goal, but in fact she decide not do it.

I’m sure that after the reading of this mail, many question will arise in your mind: tomorrow write me or if you prefer, let’s have a call.



And with that, dear readers, I was jolted back into a sort of suspended state – not knowing if I should be happy or sad. I didn’t know what probation meant in Italy. There I was, after all those months, I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. I disregarded the damages stuff. Money never was and never would be the reason for my pursuit. I had no plans for civil action later on. But I was dumbfounded.

I climbed into a cab and went about my day in a numb state. I did not speak much. I had fired off a note to Vale for clarity but wasn’t sure I’d get an answer due to the time difference. So many of my friends and family and coworkers were going to ask about it. And I had no answer…until right around the start of the red carpet premiere. That’s when Vale’s follow-up email came in.

“Dear Keri,

Probation, is not probably the right word, also because probation has a specific meaning in common law system.

In the case of Marco, the punishment is suspended for 5 years: this means that he doesn’t go to jail, but if in the next five years he commits a crime, the punishment related to you case is not anymore suspended.

So the answer is that he doesn’t go to jail.

I’m very disappointed.

I had a call with my boss yesterday night, and he agrees to begin a civil action in order to get at least a partial restore.

By the way this decision – the civil action – must be discussed, more in details, because:

–         As law firm practice area, we have no expertise in torts (civil action), of course we know good lawyers with this expertise who can help us;

–         So what I want to do is to discuss more this possibility  in order to give you a complete view of the context, especially the real chances to get what, the time to get it and the cost, of course.

Sorry for the delay in the answer.



It was devastating. I remember reading it and feeling like I was going to fall down. I recall looking all around me right after to orient myself. The lights, the people in dresses, the flashing cameras. And I had no connection to it. I told two of my friends right away in a kind of mechanical, stilted voice. I fought back tears. And then I just shut down my brain and went about my work. I sat through the film with my friend. Even went and ate a late dinner with her. I was composed and likely very distant by then.

When I arrived home, my father had this look of expectation on his face that I tried to ignore. I didn’t want to have to tell him because it was like admitting that everything had ended and ended badly. But I finally did. I washed my face, changed into my college sweats and joined him on the couch. And at 32 years old, I crawled into my father’s lap, threw my arms around his neck…and lost my fucking mind.

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