Acquitted of attempted murder, guilty of inflicting grievous injury in Gozo courtroom

Gozitan cleared of the attempted murder of Joseph Portelli but convicted of inflicting grievous injuring his victim.

With six votes against three, Pasqualino Cefai, 34, of Zebbug, Gozo, was acquitted of the attempted murder of Joseph Portelli inside a Gozo courtroom.

The jurors, also with six votes against three, found Cefai guilty of grievously injuring Portelli. While the accused was also cleared of causing grievous injuries to lawyer Kevin Mompalao, he was convicted of causing slight injuries to the lawyer.

He was also convicted of other four charges including breaching bail and carrying an unlicensed penknife. The jurors' deliberation took over eight hours.

The incident goes back to 6 June 2012, when Pasqualino Cefai, stabbed Portelli 15 times during a hearing in the courtroom of Magistrate Josette Demicoli. 

The two men were at loggerheads over the €12,000 in debt Cefai owed to Portelli. The hearing was about a warrant of seizure Portelli had filed against the accused, requisitioning two of his trucks.

When Cefai heard how Portelli intended to seize two trucks, allegedly used by his wife to sell detergents, he flew into a rage and was kicked out of court. Seconds later he returned and attacked Portelli with a penknife.

Of the 15 stab wounds, one punctured Portelli’s kidney and the other his abdomen. He also suffered a collapsed lung.

After three days of hearing evidence summoned by the prosecution, defence lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo opted not to summon anyone to the stand.

In his address to the jurors, Gatt insisted that Cefai had no intention to kill Portelli. “They were alone, and nobody tried to stop the attack. If he wanted to kill him, he would have”, the lawyer argued.

The defence also claimed that Cefai was blinded by passion, believing the plaintiff wanted to starve his family.

Following the verdict, Mr Justice Michael Mallia put off sentencing for next week. Meanwhile the defence lawyers told the court that the debt with Portelli had been settled by Cefai’s relatives.

Attorney general’s lawyers Lara Lanfranco, Gianella Buttigieg and Vinciene Vella prosecuted, while Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo appeared for Cefai.