Roma fan cleared of Anfield attack on Liverpool supporter
Roma supporter Filippo Lombardi has been found not guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm on a Liverpool fan.
Sean Cox, 53, from Co Meath, Ireland, was hit outside Anfield ahead of the Champions League semi-final in April.
Lombardi, 21, was cleared by a jury at Preston Crown Court of the assault which left Mr Cox seriously injured.
But the Italian was jailed for three years for a separate charge of violent disorder, which he admitted.
Summing up the case, Recorder of Preston 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."
He told Lombardi: "There is no doubt in my mind that your purpose was to cause a violent clash with the Liverpool fans... demonstrated vividly in film footage.
"The footage shows that you had an active role and your assertion in evidence and in your basis of plea that you were just looking for signs for away supporter sections and were suddenly confronted by Liverpool fans is, in my judgement, nonsense."
During the trial the jury was told Mr Cox is unable to talk or sit up unaided following the attack on 26 April.
Mr Cox's brother Martin, who was with him at the time, told the court: "He can't talk, he just whispers."
The court heard the brothers travelled from Ireland on the morning of the game between Liverpool and Roma and had been walking towards Anfield stadium just after 19:00 BST when he was attacked.
The jury was told another man was responsible for the punch which knocked Mr Cox to the ground, causing his injuries.
They heard Lombardi arrived at the ground after walking from Liverpool Lime Street train station with a group of 20 to 30 Roma supporters.
The jury was shown footage of the student appearing to swing his belt in the direction of Mr Cox as he fell.
Martin Cox said he heard aggressive chanting from a group of people wearing dark clothes as they walked along Walton Breck Road.
He said: "I turned to Sean as if to say 'let's get out of here', or whatever, but as I turned Sean was lying on the ground."
Lombardi told the court he had been lost and wrapped his belt round his hand because he feared he was walking into a "dangerous situation".
He said he heard a man standing behind Martin Cox say something to him about a fight and had swung the belt at him to get him away.
He said he had not noticed Sean Cox until he saw him lying on the ground.