The Marion True trial: information from the courtroom

Evidence is discussed and documents are scoured


The latest hearing in the ongoing trial of the former Getty antiquities curator Marion True took place on 13 January. Although Ms True was not present, another defendant, the Paris-based US dealer Robert E. Hecht, was in court.

The prosecuting attorney, Paolo Giorgio Ferri, called the first witness for the prosecution, Maurizio Pellegrini, who works for the archaeological authorities of the Lazio region.

The court was then shown documents and polaroid photographs relating to antiquities confiscated at Giacomo Medici’s Freeport warehouse in Geneva. [In 2004, Mr Medici was convicted in Italy of selling looted antiquities and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He remains free pending appeal.]

Many of the photographs seized in Geneva and shown in court were marked “V.B.O.” which the prosecution says stood for “via” or “venduto [sold] to Bob Hecht”. “Even if this was true,” says defence attorney Alessandro Vannucci, “it does not prove that my client [Robert Hecht] was selling in bad faith. Mr Medici was one of the most important antiquities dealers and only he would be able to explain what those letters mean but Mr Medici is not on trial here.”

The court’s attention turned to a tripod and Etruscan candelabrum returned to Italy by the Getty Museum in 1999 and 2005 respectively. A kylix drinking vessel decorated by Onesimos, bought as fragments in several installments by the Getty and returned to Italy in 1999, was then discussed.

The prosecution then proposed the following hypothesis: that antiquities were offered to the Getty Museum in fragments over an extended period of time which served to increase the amount paid for each individual piece.

The prosecution team also alleged that various documents shown to the court proved that the agent selling the pieces to the Getty must have been in direct contact with tomb robbers.

When the hearing was adjourned for lunch, the 86 year-old Mr Hecht, who was clearly enjoying himself, mocked the press with declarations such as “Forza Lazio!” (a swipe to football supporters in Rome who support Lazio’s arch rival, Roma).

The next hearing is set for 8 February when Mr Pellegrini will be cross-examined by the defence.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The Marion True trial: in the courtroom'