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Pope's ex-butler Paolo Gabriele gets 18-month sentence in 'Vatileaks' case

The pope's once-trusted butler, Paulo Gabriele, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his part in leaking private Vatican documents. NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

VATICAN CITY — The pope’s former butler was convicted in the "Vatileaks" case Saturday and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Paolo Gabriele will serve his sentence under house arrest in his Vatican apartment while awaiting a possible papal pardon, his lawyer said.

Gabriele was found guilty of stealing thousands of Vatican documents — including some of Pope Benedict’s private papers and letters alleging corruption within the church — while working for the pontiff. Some of papers were later leaked to the media.

Defense lawyer Cristiana Arru said after the hearing that she did not plan to appeal the sentence, describing it as "just," Reuters reported.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi suggested the pope would intervene.

"Now that we have a sentence, the pope will evaluate whether to pardon him. There is a concrete and real possibility of his forgiveness, but it will up to him to decide if and when," Lombardi said.

Vincenzo Pinto / AFP - Getty Images

The pope's former butler Paolo Gabriele, seen arriving with the pontiff for a weekly audience in St Peter's Square, Rome, in June 2007, said Saturday he acted out of love for the church.

Before the verdict was announced, Gabriele, wearing a dark gray suit, a white shirt, and a blue tie, insisted he was not a thief and that he had acted out of concern for the Catholic church and the pontiff.

"What I feel strongly inside me, is the conviction of having acted out of exclusive and visceral love for Jesus' church, and for his visible leader. I repeat, I don’t feel like a thief," he told the tribunal.

'Rewarded' one day?
Arru had argued there was no theft, as Gabriele photocopied the documents and did not remove the originals.

She said he was driven by his faith, high morals and by motives that she hoped one day would be "recognized and rewarded" as he was pushed to do what he did by the "evil" he saw around him.

Pope's ex-butler says eyesight was damaged by 24-hour light in Vatican cell

Arru said Gabriele had shown a "lack of respect" toward the confidentiality of the material he had access to, but insisted her client had not actually stolen the documents.

She also said Gabriele had not benefited personally from his actions. Gabriele has always maintained he never received money or presents in exchange of the documents.

Pope Benedict: 'Sadness in my heart' over butler leak scandal

Arru had asked for the charges to be changed from theft to embezzlement.

The pope's former butler is accused of stealing thousands of private papal documents. In the 'Vatileaks' trial that has captured the world, Paolo Gabriele tells the court why he did it. NBC's Michelle Kosinki reports.

Gabriele was actually sentenced to the three years in prison requested by the prosecution, but this was reduced to 18 months due to his belief he was acting in good faith, clean record, and admission of guilt.

The prosecutor, Nicola Picardi, said that, according to his psychological profile, Gabriele was "suggestible" and easily influenced by others.

Picardi wondered whether it was possible that other people were involved, but said "there is no proof" that Gabriele, who has insisted he acted alone, had an accomplice.

Picardi added that Gabriele had confessed to the crime to Father Giovanni Luzi, a priest, and handed him some of the documents before his arrest.

After the hearing, Gabriele went back to his Vatican apartment under house arrest.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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