AN ITALIAN MAN has been found not guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to Liverpool fan Sean Cox in April.
Filippo Lombardi (21), from Rome, denied inflicting GBH on Cox before a Champions League semi-final match at Anfield on 24 April.
The jury at Preston Crown Court found him not guilty in a majority verdict this afternoon. However, he was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to violent disorder.
Cox, a 53-year-old father-of-three from Co Meath, sustained life-changing injuries in the incident.
While giving evidence this week, Lombardi insisted he did not attack Cox. He told the jury: “I was not looking for trouble.”
Lombardi was part of a group of 50 Roma fans who attended the Champions League clash. He had been in custody since April.
The Liverpool Echo reports that, as he summed up the case, Judge Mark Brown said: “Football has been described as the beautiful game but the terrible events that took place outside Anfield stadium when Sean Cox was assaulted and suffered catastrophic injuries surely have blighted its reputation.”
The jury had been told another man, referred to as N40, was responsible for the punch that knocked Cox to the ground, causing his injuries.
Lombardi had admitted wrapping his buckled belt around his hand “to protect himself” from “Reds” supporters who were starting to “get more aggressive” after Cox had been punched and collapsed to the floor.
“I saw a few Liverpool fans who started to tell me something. They weren’t friendly and for that reason I understand, it could be a dangerous situation so I took off my belt and wrapped it around my hand,” he said.
Lombardi demonstrated to the jury how he made a sideways swing with his belt, and he added: “I saw Sean Cox at the end of my movement, he was lying on the ground, this is the first time that I saw him.”
Cox’s wife Martina, and their children, were not in court to hear Lombardi’s evidence.
Contains reporting from Luke Traynor and Sophie McCoid, via the Liverpool Echo.