Báez Sosa murder trial: family and police take witness stand in first week

Rugby team in the dock on Villa Gesell murder charges after three-year wait

by Lucía Cholakian Herrera
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On January 2, after a three-year wait, eight members of a rugby team went on trial for a case that has gripped the nation: the murder Fernando Báez Sosa. The 18-year-old who was beaten to death outside a nightclub in the coastal resort city of Villa Gesell. 

During the first week of the trial in Dolores Court 1, Báez Sosa’s family and friends gave their testimony, alongside witnesses, forensic experts and the police who intervened at the scene of the crime. “They showed no mercy,” said his mother, María Graciela Sosa Osorio, on the first day. “Fernando was a human being, and they called him negro, how can someone discriminate like this?”

The trial is expected to last until January 31, when the panel of three judges will announce their verdict. Fernando Burlando, the Baez Sosa family’s lawyer, will seek to prove that the group killed the boy intentionally. The accused have not entered a plea.

After three years in pre-trial detention, eight rugby players from Zárate in Buenos Aires province – Máximo Thomsen, Enzo Comelli, Matías Benicelli, Blas Cinalli, Ayrton Viollaz, Luciano Pertossi, Ciro Pertossi and Lucas Pertossi – sat in the dock for the first time on Monday.

Over 130 testimonies will be heard during the trial – so far, almost 30 people have spoken before the judges. 

Several testimonies from that night confirm that the accused called Báez Sosa racist names while they kicked him on the floor. “I’ll never accept the fact that kids the same age as him did this to Fer: they attacked from behind, threw him to the ground, and burst his head,” said Sosa Osorio. 

“They wouldn’t stop hitting him,” said 21-year-old Virginia Pérez Antonelli, who aided Báez Sosa by practicing CPR after the attack. “They were all extremely violent, punching and hitting him.” 

“They hit him from the back, and I tried to defend him but three of them punched me at the same time,” said Tomás Bidonde, one of Fernando’s friends, before the judges. “They were attacking him specifically, and they wouldn’t let us help him.”

A dark summer

A coastal city located 321 kilometers (199 miles) from Buenos Aires, Villa Gesell is a popular holiday spot for teenagers from the city to spend their first summers away from home. A typical day would involve lying under the sun, playing sports with other friends, and going to clubs at night. And, like any other beach city, Villa Gesell is often a land of excess. 

Fernando, an 18-year-old from Buenos Aires, arrived in Villa Gesell on January 16, 2020, to spend a few days with his girlfriend and friends. The following night, he went dancing at Le Brique, a well-known club. 

At 4:30a.m, Le Brique was packed. As Fernando and his friends tried to move between the crowds, they bumped into the group from Zárate, who got aggressive with them. As the conflict escalated, Fernando’s friends tried to explain that there were too many people inside the club. The security guards separated them and kicked them out of the club. Fernando and his friends sat down across the street to have some ice-cream, but the rugby players wouldn’t let go. 

What exactly happened over the next fourteen minutes is being thrashed out in the trial. But what is known for sure is that at 4:44a.m, Báez Sosa had been kicked and beaten to death in the street. 

That night, after Báez Sosa’s killing, the eight friends walked back to their rental apartment. In a nearby hotel, a woman working heard them discussing loudly what had happened. Her testimony would become key for their detention, which happened around 11a.m.

A few hours before, the eight friends had gone to eat burgers at McDonald’s after washing the blood off their bodies. 

Burlando, the prosecution lawyer, said that he will ask for life imprisonment for the offenders, who have not yet given statements and refused to do so during the investigation in 2020. 

According to the defendants, they are not being guaranteed a fair trial, and the media’s bias against their case is hindering their right to defend themselves. Hugo Tomei, their lawyer, has not yet confirmed what he will request on behalf of the defendants. This is expected towards the end of the trial.

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