Italy’s Grillo derided for defending son in sex assault case

<p>MILAN &mdash; Former Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday derided the 5-Star Movement’s founder for a video message defending his son against sexual assault allegations.</p>
<p>Conte, a lawyer by training who has been tapped as the next leader of the movement, said in a statement that he understands Beppe Grillo’s “anguish of a father, but we cannot overlook that there are also other people … who must be protected and whose feelings must be absolutely respected, namely the young girl directly involved.”</p>
<p>Beppe Grillo, the comic who founded the 5-Star Movement, published an impassioned video on his popular blog this week defending his 20-year-old son against allegations of involvement in a group sexual assault in Sardinia in the summer of 2019. Prosecutors are expected to decide shortly whether to pursue charges against Grillo’s son and three other suspects in the case. </p>
<p>In the video, Grillo claimed any sexual activity with the teenager was consensual, pointing out that no one has been arrested. </p>
<p>The family of the 19-year-old victim has protested, and the video has provoked outrage across the political spectrum, including among some members of the 5-Star movement. The political movement was the top vote-getter in the 2018 parliamentary election, first forming a government with the right-wing league, then with the Democratic Party, before Conte was pressured to resign earlier this year amid criticism over his plans for handling EU recovery funds.</p>
<p>The uproar over the video has the potential to further damage the movement, which has sunk in opinion surveys. </p>