Jan. 31, 2014 at 11:24 AM ET
The American attorney for Amanda Knox’s former boyfriend on Friday said his client wasn’t trying to flee Italy when authorities stopped him at the border after an Italian court convicted him for a second time of murder.
“He had planned on being away from the courthouse, away from his home and media hotspots after the verdict,” said John Q. Kelly, the lawyer for Italian native Raffaele Sollecito. “His passport had been flagged already. It wasn’t like he could go to some border and use his passport. … He would have been stopped no matter what.”
Police seized Sollecito’s passport on Thursday after apprehending him in a hotel in a small town about 25 miles from the border with Slovenia and Austria. He was detained for several hours and released Friday morning.
The verdict was "completely unexpected," Sollecito told NBC News Friday. "The first thing that came to my mind was to wait for the reasons of this verdict...I will look into the reasons of it."
Sollecito reiterated that he wasn't trying to flee the country, but that he was outside Italy when the verdict was read — and on his way back in.
"As soon as I got the news there was a guilty verdict … I came right immediately back in Italy," he told NBC News in the exclusive interview.
"Psychologically, it’s devastating," he said of the prospect of going back to prison. "I have to fight until the end, also because we proved, and we showed in many ways that I have nothing to do with this murder."
Earlier Thursday, an Italian panel of judges and jurors re-convicted Sollecito and Knox in the 2007 stabbing death of Knox’s former roommate, Meredith Kercher, while the two women were exchange students in Italy.
Knox, who now lives in Seattle, was sentenced to 28 years and six months. Sollecito, who attended the trial, was sentenced to 25 years.
Kelly said he and Sollecito were absolutely shocked by the verdict.
“Stunned is an understatement. No one ever expected this, as opposed to the other trials,” he said. “There’s much less evidence now, no evidence. There’s no forensic, there’s no physical, there’s no witness testimony.”
Kelly suggested other factors may have gone into the panel’s conviction because “there’s no motive here. There’s just nothing that ties him to the situation whatsoever.”
Knox and Sollecito were acquitted in 2011 by an appeals court for Kercher's murder after spending nearly four years in an Italian prison. Rude Guede, a drifter and low-level drug dealer, is currently serving a 16-year sentence for Kercher's murder.
Knox plans to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court. In a statement she issued Thursday, she expressed how "frightened and saddened” she was by the ruling.
“Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system. The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said. “Rather, nothing has changed. There has always been a marked lack of evidence. My family and I have suffered greatly from this wrongful persecution."
During an interview Friday, Knox insisted she would "never go willingly back" to Italy.
"I'm going to fight this until the very end. It’s not right and it’s not fair, and I’m going to do everything I can," she told ABC. She also expressed concern for Sollecito.
"My initial thought after the verdict was, 'Oh my god, Raffaele.' I feel very supported and very respected and believed here. And I know that he feels very supported and respected by many people in Italy but he is vulnerable, and I don’t know what I would do if they imprisoned him," she said. "It’s maddening."
Kelly pointed out that while Knox will be able to stay in the United States while she appeals, his Italian client does not have similar security and would have subject to extradition regardless of where he was.
“So he chose to be home with his family and friends and those who love and support him,” he said.
NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom said that although United States and Italy have an extradition agreement, the United States may argue against sending Knox abroad because of its double jeopardy law, which forbids individuals from being tried twice for the same crime. Bloom said that may not matter to Italy, which has no such law.
“She’s a convicted murderer. I’m sure they’re going to try to get her extradited,” she said.
Ultimately, it will be up to the Justice Department on whether they must give Knox up to Italian authorities, Bloom said.