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Knox co-defendant Sollecito at hotel near border

Associated Press

Publication: theday.com

Published January 31. 2014 7:00AM   Updated January 31. 2014 7:47AM

Florence, Italy (AP) — Police on Friday found Amanda Knox's ex-boyfriend near Italy's border with Slovenia and Austria, hours after he and the American student were convicted for a second time in the death of British student Meredith Kercher.

Raffaele Sollecito's lawyer, Luca Maori, said his client was in the area of Italy's northeastern border because that's where his current girlfriend lives, and that he went voluntarily to police.

However, the cabinet chief of the Udine police station, Giovanni Belmonte, said police showed up at about 1 a.m. Friday at a hotel in Venzone, a tiny town of 2,200 about 40 kilometers from the border, where Sollecito and the girlfriend were staying.

They brought him to the Udine police station, took his passport and put a stamp in his Italian identity papers showing that he cannot leave the country, as mandated by the appeals court in Florence.

Since the court didn't order Sollecito detained, he will be freed as soon as the paperwork is completed, Belmonte said. He said Sollecito was calm and came willingly to the station, with his girlfriend driving behind.

Asked if police thought he might have planned to flee the country, Belmonte said: "We don't know his intentions." But he said police were tipped off to his presence in the hotel and came immediately.

In Italy, adults checking into hotels must hand over ID upon check-in. Hotels are then required to communicate the information to local police.

The court in Florence on Thursday upheld the conviction against Knox and Sollecito, sentencing Knox to 28 ½ years in prison and Sollecito to 25 years for Kercher's 2007 murder. It did not immediately order Sollecito's arrest and noted that Knox was "justifiably abroad" after an appeals court in 2011 acquitted the pair and ordered them freed.

The new conviction immediately set the stage for a drawn-out extradition process for Knox, assuming the verdicts are upheld on final appeal, a process that could take another year.

For Kercher's family, the verdict was another step in what has been more than six years of uncertainty about how Meredith died and finding justice.

"I think we are still on the journey of the truth and it may be the fact that we don't ever really know what happened that night, which will be something we have to come to terms with," said Stephanie Kercher, the victim's sister who attended the verdict with her brother Lyle.

After the acquittal in 2011, Knox returned to the U.S., hoping that that would be the end of her involvement with Italian law. But Italy's supreme court soon ordered a third trial that returned new guilty verdicts and stiffened her original 26-year sentence.

In a statement issued from her hometown of Seattle, Knox denounced the ruling as unjust, saying she was "frightened and saddened" by what she called a perversion of justice.

Lawyers for both Knox and Sollecito have vowed to appeal, but must wait to see the written reasoning behind the verdict before doing so. The Florence court has 90 days to issue its motivations.

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