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“We do not want revenge, but justice”: Plea deal for lorry driver accused of killing Davide Rebellin rejected by Italian court

The driver had requested a plea bargain which would have seen his sentence halved to three years, but will now face trial in May, as the classics star’s family described the verdict as a “nice surprise”

The German lorry driver accused of hitting and killing retired pro cyclist Davide Rebellin in Italy in November 2022, before fleeing the scene of the fatal crash, will not be granted a plea bargain that would have seen his sentence halved, a court in Vincenza has ruled. The verdict was welcomed as a pleasant surprise by Rebellin’s family, who asserted that they “do not want revenge, but justice” for the classics star.

In November, we reported that the lawyers representing Wolfgang Rieke, who was extradited to Italy in July last year and is currently being detained in Vicenza, had requested a reduced sentence of three years and 11 months of house arrest – down from six-and-a-half years in prison – for the lorry driver, who is charged with vehicular homicide and failing to render assistance in relation to Rebellin’s death.

The plea bargain was also based on the compensation, believed to be approximately €825,000, paid by Rieke’s employer’s insurance company to the former Gerolsteiner leader’s family, including his wife, mother, and three brothers.

> Lorry driver accused of killing Davide Rebellin requests plea bargain, in bid to halve proposed prison sentence to three years

However, Rebellin’s family were vehemently opposed to any such plea bargain, particularly when viewed in the light of Rieke’s two previous driving convictions in Italy.

In 2001, the lorry driver was convicted of fleeing the scene of a non-fatal crash in Foggia, Puglia, without stopping to give assistance to those involved in it, while in 2014 he was handed a driving ban after officers found him drunk at the wheel of his vehicle in Chieti, Abruzzo.

And on Monday a panel of judges in Vicenza ruled in the family’s favour, declaring the requested deal “inadmissible” and confirming that proceedings are now open for a formal trial to begin on 27 May, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports.

“It was a nice surprise, we didn’t expect it,” Rebellin’s brother Carlo told La Gazzetta in response to the quashed plea deal.

“We feared that the college, after granting house arrest to the accused, would also agree to the plea bargain. We can only be satisfied with the fact that, instead, the judges have decided to go ahead and send Rieke to trial. We renew all our thanks for the great work carried out by the Italian justice system for Davide, both at the prosecutor’s office and at the court.”

He continued: “We do not want revenge, but justice for Davide and we believe that a trial is the ‘right’ place to ascertain all the facts and to arrive at a sentence that will not return him to us, but which is at least the most appropriate possible, compatible with Italian laws, to the serious responsibilities of the accused.”

Davide Rebellin leads Schleck brothers and Valverde at LBL 2008 (licensed CC BY-SA 3.0 lu by Les Meloures)

> Lorry driver who killed Davide Rebellin failed to stop at scene of fatal collision because he didn’t think he was at fault, says brother

63-year-old Rieke, who was the subject of a European arrest warrant, turned himself into the authorities in Germany in June 2023, before being extradited to Vicenza, where he has remained while awaiting trial.

Italian cycling star Rebellin, who retired at the end of the 2022 season at the age of 51 following three decades as a professional rider, had been on a training ride near his home in Montebello Vicentino, northern Italy, on 30 November 2022 when he was struck by the truck driver and killed instantly.

According to roadside video and witness photos, Rieke got out of his cab briefly to assess the cyclist’s condition, before fleeing the scene and driving to Germany, where his brother’s haulage firm is based.

Despite Rieke being quickly identified, the Italian authorities were initially hampered in their efforts to bring Rieke to trial because there is no equivalent in Germany to the Italian law of ‘omocidio stradale’, or ‘traffic homicide’.

Davide Rebellin after winning the 2009  Fleche Wallone (© Photosport International)

> I’m fortunate I can try to contemplate why a driver would knock me off my bike: Davide Rebellin didn’t get that chance

In the weeks after Rebellin’s death, the Italian professional cyclists’ union, the ACCPI, criticised what they regarded as a lack of action from the authorities.

“You can kill a cyclist, flee abroad driving your lorry and continue to live as though nothing happened,” the ACCPI said in December 2022, “while the person you killed is still waiting for their autopsy and his devastated family has not yet been able to arrange his funeral.”

Nevertheless, police in Germany continued to work alongside their Italian counterparts in the investigation, and an examination of the lorry Rieke was driving discovered damage consistent with the collision, as well as evidence that it had been cleaned with a concentrated, highly acidic detergent, leading to his arrest and eventual extradition to Italy.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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6 comments

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ROOTminus1 | 3 months ago
1 like

Italy is not my first port of call when asked for a European exemplar of justice, what with the historic corruption around dealing with mafia, but here we are.
Someone has committed "omocidio stradale", an offence agnostic of intent and crucially compared to UK law, agnostic of the degree of incompetence. If you killed someone because of your driving you weren't driving well enough, none of the proof of burden between careless/reckless/dangerous. The proof is in the result.

I imagine the majorly compounding factor in this case is the repeat offence of fleeing the scene and trying to hide the evidence. This man cannot be trusted to be in command of a motor vehicle again for the rest of his life, and this is the closest sentence to justice for a crime like this that I've seen

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Rome73 | 3 months ago
1 like

Good. This definitely deserves a long custodial sentence. The fact the lorry was washed with strong detergent is highly condemning in itself. Plus the previous - but I don't know if that is admissible.  If he was convicted twice in Italy - did he also have convictions in Germany and elsewhere? Probably. 

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hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
9 likes

Seems obvious to me that fleeing the scene of a crash should be a permanent disqualification from driving.

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
6 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

Seems obvious to me that fleeing the scene of a crash should be a permanent disqualification from driving.

And, as in some states in America, automatically registered as a refusal to provide an alcohol/drug sample with the penalties for that added to the other sanctions; no more of the "I panicked and drove home and had three large scotches to calm my nerves then realised I was wrong and went back" get out of jail free card.

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lesterama | 3 months ago
4 likes

I hope that ‘omocidio stradale’ works better than the desperate fudge that is death by careless driving in UK law.

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mitsky | 3 months ago
2 likes

While it is not 100% certain that the driver's previous convictions were a deciding factor that led to the dismissal of his plea deal, one can hope it was and that it sets a precedent for future cases.

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