Inside the Stalker Hell of Italian Footballer Fabio Quagliarella, Part 2

Kelly NaqiContributor IOctober 25, 2017


This is the second part of Inside the Stalker Hell of Italian Footballer Fabio Quagliarella. For the first part, click here.

Unaware of the drama going on behind the scenes, the Napoli fans remained unabated in their disdain for Quagliarella, and his appearances on the pitch in an opponent's uniform kept the wound—and their rage—fresh. Barile recalls seeing this homemade sign awaiting Quagliarella on one of his return trips to Napoli, even though he wasn't scheduled to take the pitch, due to an injured knee: QUAGLIARELLA, SAN GENNARO TOOK CARE ABOUT YOU.

San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples. The saint, it was implied, caused Quagliarella's knee injury, forcing him to sit out the match against his hometown club.

"We hated him," members of the local cammorristi confided to B/R. "We used to chant at the matches, 'You're trash, you're a s--tty man, you sold out for money!"

Piccolo's charges were not made public, and Quagliarella's attorneys counseled him not to speak about the trauma he, his family and his friends endured, lest it jeopardize the case the State was building against Piccolo before his trial. (In Italy, verdicts are rendered by a judge, and charges aren't made public until the case has been adjudicated.)

Napoli fans didn't let up on Quagliarella, even during the offseason. Going out in town with his family became as painful as standing on the pitch at Stadio San Paolo. For a time, he took to wearing disguises when he went out: sunglasses and a hat. But he was quickly recognized, and scorned. Soon, he decided against going out altogether.

"The fear that Fabio felt was real," De Riso says. "We spent a lot of time at my house or his house. A couple of times, we went to a public place. … It was a very tough situation to hear a lot of people insulting Fabio: … I was really pissed off, and I looked at the expression that Fabio and Fabio's parents had. They looked so sad."

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B/R met with a representative of the office of the Procura della Repubblica, the division responsible for overseeing the prosecution of Piccolo's stalking case. The official spoke on two conditions, that they not be quoted by name and that we not digitally record the interview but only take notes by hand.

Quagliarella first met with an official from the office of the Procura on Nov. 29, 2010. "He was nervous. He was really vulnerable," the representative recalls. "Fabio got death threats. There was constant pressure, thinking that everyone is following you. Piccolo got into their lives; he intruded into their family life, which is the safest place. Fabio was worried about his family, his mom, the other people in his family that were affected. It's the biggest pressure you can get."

This case was "one of the worst they've ever seen," the representative says, because of the large number of victims involved. Piccolo's power? Shame.

Quagliarella couldn't tell the fans he loved what was going on.
Quagliarella couldn't tell the fans he loved what was going on.Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

"It never came out before because of the shame a person could feel if the story came out," the official continues. "Even if they were innocent, they were scared of being judged by people. Especially with the importance of Fabio in the community, what he became in the town.

"Paedo-pornography is the worst thing people can be associated with. Piccolo had access to police archives containing pornography and paedo-pornography. He could access that material, and that's what he used. He sent that to people, accusing them of being the owner of these images, and he was saying he'd make it public. They would not make a report because maybe people would not believe they were innocent. He was acting on that fear, not the actual proof. They could be ashamed if people didn't believe them. Just the accusation—not the proof—can destroy someone's life. For Fabio, having a 'friend' sort it out was important."

On February 17, 2017, Piccolo was found guilty of slander and stalking and was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. He would also be prevented from serving in a public office for five years after he served his time.

Quagliarella could finally tell Napoli—and the world—what he had been going through. He spoke with LE IENE-TV shortly after the sentence was made public.

"I was detested and judged as a traitor because of that situation [being sold by Napoli to Juventus]," Quagliarella says, tears rolling from his eyes, "and believe me, being judged in this way by my own people hurts."

"What you saw of Fabio on that tape was what we all really felt about that issue," De Riso says.

The Napoli fans who were so quick to castigate Quagliarella for his departure now rushed back in droves, seeking forgiveness. Some even wrote a new song for him:

abbiam detto sai tante cose che ti han ferito e poi buttato giu,

adesso sappiamo perche sei andato alla Juve,

caro Fabio dai scusaci campione

as we have been told, as you know, a lot of words hurt you and then knocked you down,

now we really know why you went to Juventus,

dear Fabio, please forgive us, champion.

"When we knew the truth, obviously, we felt so bad, we were so sorry," the cammorristi member confides. "It's normal for us to have said that stuff in the past; now it's our duty to say 'I'm sorry' to him. We'll be very happy if he comes back and joins the team because all of us, we keep him in our heart."

Napoli's fans apologized when they learned the truth.
Napoli's fans apologized when they learned the truth.TIZIANA FABI/Getty Images

The sentiment he and his family members hold in their hearts for Piccolo is quite different, however: "He deserves to die for what he did to Quagliarella and the Napoli team," he says. The group nods in agreement. "He's trash, and if someone killed him, that would be good."

De Riso says he had one such offer from a different Neapolitan family mafia member last spring. De Riso would not identify the person or family. "They asked me, 'Who is this asshole? Who is this piece of shit?'" De Riso recalls. "They would like to know, 'How we can find him? How we can recognize him from the face?' They asked me if there was the possibility to teach him a lesson, to do something to him."

What did you say?

"I said obviously not, because if there will be a person that will physically hurt Raffaele, that person will be me," De Riso says, smirking.

While Quagliarella's relationship with his countrymen has been repaired, he knows that at 34 years old, he'll never play for Napoli again. His childhood dream now over, he decided to revisit the nightmare he endured to show how anyone—even a professional footballer—can be brought down, made to feel defenseless and powerless. Stalking is a crime that needs to be discussed more openly, he says, to be properly understood and prosecuted.

"I believe we are all vulnerable," Quagliarella says. "We are all people, after all. We do a job that is particular, that is beloved by fans. But at the end of the day we are all vulnerable, especially to crazy people like Raffaele. They are a danger for everybody.

"On the other hand, I am lucky that, being a well-known football player, I am in the position to publicly denounce what happened; I can tell people what really happened. There are others, especially women, who suffer these kinds of things but have no way to report it, or maybe they report it and are not taken seriously. This [stalking] is something not to be taken lightly. I was lucky that they listened to me, but there are others who are not heard, and this is a shame."

Just over 10 years after he received his first anonymous letter, Quagliarella would receive justice. Piccolo—now a convicted criminal—was going to prison.

…Wasn't he?

It's a sunny morning in late August in Cava de Tirreni, a popular tourist resort in the Campania region of Italy. A middle-aged man pulls into the parking lot in front of the Department of Public Security. It's humid outside—even for 7:40 a.m.—so he swings open the car door to let some air in as he finishes typing something on his smartphone. Finally, he gets out, locks up and begins to make his way toward the front door.

My translator calls out from behind a steel gate: "Raffaele? Raffaele Piccolo?" he asks. "Si," the man answers softly as he cautiously approaches us at the gate. My translator explains we are assigned to do a story on Fabio Quagliarella and you, since you were found guilty of stalking him. We want to know your side of the story and anything else you think people should know about you.

Piccolo's lower lip begins to quiver. "How did you find me?" he asks.

So those rumors in Castellammare di Stabia are true: Raffaele Piccolo was transferred to a different district, but he is still employed as a police officer.

The police station where Piccolo currently works
The police station where Piccolo currently worksPhoto by Kelly Naqi

The Italian justice system differs from its American and UK counterparts in a number of ways. One of those ways is how it metes out punishment for criminal convictions. The representative from the office of the Procura summarized it this way:

• Last February, Piccolo was found guilty "in the first grade of justice." In Italian law, there are three such grades. That simply means you get three attempts to prove your innocence in court, if necessary. Piccolo was found "guilty" his first time in court; he now gets two more tries to overturn that verdict. Until then, there is nothing in Italian law that stipulates Piccolo has to be incarcerated while he waits for his appeals to be adjudicated—despite the serious nature of his crimes and the victims' lives he impacted. His criminal sentence is not effectuated until he's exhausted all of his appeals.

• There is a short window of time for Piccolo's appeals to be tried in court. That period of time in Italian law is called “prescription time.” If Piccolo's prescription time runs out before he's had two more chances to appeal his conviction, the case becomes closed. Piccolo would be considered technically guilty according to Italian law, but he would not have to serve any prison time or be subject to any restrictions on his employment. In other words, he could go back to his old job if they would take him back.

• Piccolo's crimes against his victims spanned different time periods over different years. Because there are often delays in the court system (for myriad reasons), it's difficult to determine when the prescription time assigned to each of his victims will expire.

One thing Quagliarella knows, however, is his own case's timeline: March 2018. Simply put: If Piccolo doesn't get at least two more shots to prove his innocence in court before the end of next March, he will pay no criminal penalty for what he did to Quagliarella or his family.

"I feel angry," Quagliarella says. "What else does somebody need to do in order to go to prison? That is the most upsetting thing. Somebody can ruin your life. First of all, he should never work as a policeman again. After such a sentence, he should have lost his job."

PESCARA, ITALY - OCTOBER 15: Fabio Quagliarella of UC Sampdoria in action during the Serie A match between Pescara Calcio and UC Sampdoria at Adriatico Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Pescara, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

According to the office of the Procura's representative, the Italian Police's Disciplinary Office is "still evaluating the possibility of a temporary suspension" for Piccolo. But questions about why he's still employed as a cop in the first place, or what his exact job responsibilities are now, remain unanswered.

An official at the postal police headquarters in Naples (where Piccolo used to work) told B/R that all requests regarding Piccolo's past and present employment must be submitted via email to Press Office of the State Police in Rome. A month after making such a request, B/R was informed that no information would be given until a final judgment against Piccolo has been reached.

"The police were shocked," the official from the Procura's office told us about Piccolo's former colleagues' reaction to his sentencing. "He was one of the good guys. They trusted him. He was good policeman. … Now, he is not trusted and he has lost the affection of his colleagues."

If Piccolo was looking to be cast in a movie, you could easily see him in the role of a professor, or lab technician. His outfit matches perfectly from head to toe: polo shirt, pants and sneakers are all grayish-brown, like putty. He wears glasses. His gray hair thinning on top. His demeanor is mild-mannered and detached. At about 5'11" and 145 pounds, he hardly cuts an intimidating figure. In fact, in our 15 minutes with him, nearly everything about how he comported himself would inspire trust and confidence, which helps to understand why he was able to ensnare so many people for such a long period of time.

While he was caught off guard by our presence (three times he asked how we had been able to track him down), he didn't try to hurry away once we had identified ourselves or our purpose for being there. While his voice remained calm and steady, his lower lip slightly quivered at times, and he constantly fidgeted with his car keys.

"I'll be very happy to do [an interview], especially since I've been bombarded with articles of what Fabio says, and everyone has just heard Fabio's side," Piccolo says.

First, he maintains his innocence: "There is proof of my career in all the files that the police have. You can't view them because the files contain names of people. As you can imagine, as postal police, we treat really delicate cases—we work with kids—but my career is 20 years and that proves my honesty on the job. For 20 years, I've been an honest policeman. I hope this is going to help to unfold the truth."

He doesn't want to speak about particulars of his case, he says, because he doesn't want anything he says to possibly be manipulated and used against him in trial. He says he's already filed his appeal and is awaiting his court date.

"I hope with my appeal, I'll be found innocent and the truth can be revealed," he says matter-of-factly. And while he wouldn't give us any names of people who could vouch for his character or speak to the quality of his work as a policeman, he says he'd consider doing that himself, after consulting with his attorney.

He wouldn't give us the name of his attorney.

As for the attorney who is his wife, Piccolo says, "We're separated, we don't live together anymore." When asked what role his conviction may have played in that situation, he says, "There were issues before, but this contributed to it."

Bleacher Report visited the home and work addresses that were publicly listed for Piccolo's spouse, Simona de Simone. At both places, people said she was no longer there, and they didn't know where she was now.

Piccolo says he no longer holds a public-facing position in the department. "They put me in a bureaucratic position," he says. "I just deal with paperwork. Obviously until the [appeal] comes and I'll be cleared, I can go back to my old job, my old life and also, I hope, the truth will be out there."

Two days later, Bleacher Report went back to the office of the Procura to obtain a copy of the 111-page sentencing report, the only available public document listing the names and details of the crimes Piccolo committed.

The representative hands me the papers, and raises an eyebrow when I say I gave Piccolo my cellphone number and email address, in case his attorney gave him the OK to get in touch for a more in-depth interview.

"He's probably changing attorneys now," the official speculates, citing the move as a familiar stall tactic used by guilty parties, although the office hadn't received any such notifications yet. (B/R contacted Piccolo's two previous attorneys, who say they no longer represent him and don't know who does).

I ask the official if they could suggest anyone who might know where we could find Piccolo's wife, hoping she could help provide some background information on him, if not a motive for Piccolo's behavior.

The official lets out a reluctant smile, then says: "She thinks he's innocent. As an attorney herself, she noted we only presented circumstantial evidence. We had a lot of circumstantial evidence that connected a lot of dots, but we had no 'smoking gun'—we didn't see him sending the material or manipulating the material himself—so she says she thinks he's innocent."

"It is a question that people always ask me: 'What did Raffaele want from you?'" Quagliarella muses. "This is what we concluded: It was his way, with his mental illness, he wanted to make the people he was stalking need him. Then he would make himself available to them, to feel important.

"For somebody like him, with a wife that works as a lawyer and two grown-up children, he must be out of his mind," Quagliarella says. "I don't know what kind of issues he must have had in his life to be doing these kinds of things. He was doing the same things to many other people."

"He took pleasure to see other people suffering," Barile, who has since reconciled with his wife, says. "With Fabio, he tried to profit off of him because he was famous. During one match, when Fabio was playing for the national team, he brought Raffaele with him on the pitch, and Raffaele boasted about their friendship and the fact that through [Quagliarella], he met other football players."

"In my opinion," De Riso says, "even Raffaele didn't even think he was capable of bringing Fabio down. Sometimes it was a collection of random circumstances; sometimes Raffaele created the situation. I'm sure he didn't expect that he was capable of creating the level of chaos and harm he did, but I am convinced that when he realized Fabio left Napoli—perhaps because of the letters he sent—he began to feel powerful."

How has it changed you? we asked Quagliarella.

"It's harder to trust people, even if not everybody is like Raffaele, luckily," he says. "I have always been quiet and introverted. Now, I am wary when I meet new people and I try to keep my distance. It's normal, because such an experience leaves a bit of fear. I feel that I am happier if I can keep my distance."

Quagliarella has continued his career in Serie A with Sampdoria.
Quagliarella has continued his career in Serie A with Sampdoria.Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

And what if you ever ran into Piccolo?

"I don't know how I would react," he answers, quietly. "It's not a nice thing to say, but I feel hate for him inside."

Do you think you will ever be able to forgive him?

"No," he responds. "No, because nobody will ever give me back the tranquillity and happiness that I lost for a number of years. He wanted it. Nobody pushed him. It's not like I did something bad to him and he was taking his revenge. He wanted it."

The interview with Quagliarella took place before Bleacher Report tracked down Piccolo in Italy. After speaking with Piccolo, we tried to follow up with Quagliarella and let him know we found his tormentor—and get Quagliarella's reaction. The Sampdoria PR representative who arranged our first interview with the footballer responded to our request via text: "Fabio doesn't want to know where the stalker works."

We're still speaking through the steel gates outside of Piccolo's police station, and now, at 7:57 a.m., it's only a few minutes before his shift starts. We've got to get one last question in before he heads for the front door.

"What would you tell Fabio if you saw him right now?" my translator asks.

Piccolo considers the question for a moment. His face doesn't change expression at all. He tilts his head back slightly before shaking his head "no," his mouth forming a slight frown. "Nothing," he says. "I'm not going to say anything to him. It would be used against me."

We try again: "What would you say to Fabio?"

Again Piccolo pauses, before offering: "I'm also a father. This story is damaging me, my family. I have a son and daughter. I couldn't have done what I have been accused of doing because I am a father."

Piccolo then asks us a question: "Why are you doing this story?"

He turns pensive, before turning away for good.

"I am looking for another place to work," he says. "I'm not allowed to do the job I used to do, what I've done all of my career. I used to help people. I'm not doing that anymore."