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No, Silvio Berlusconi probably isn't going to jail
The former Italian prime minister was sentenced to seven years in prison for his 'bunga bunga' parties. He probably won't serve any of it
Silvio Berlusconi has faced 20 trials over the last two decades. 
Silvio Berlusconi has faced 20 trials over the last two decades.  THIERRY ROGE/Reuters/Corbis
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espite being sentenced to seven years in prison for paying for sex with a minor, Silvio Berlusconi, the 76-year-old former prime minister of Italy, is probably not going to spend anytime behind bars.

The case centers around Berlusconi's infamous "bunga bunga" parties, where he reportedly paid 32 different woman to strip and perform sexual acts dressed up as nurses, police officers and, at least once, President Obama.

One of the women, Karima El Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby the Heart Stealer," was only 17 at the time. She claimed that she attended 13 of the parties and was paid 3,000 euros ($3,900) for attending each one.

Berlusconi is also accused of ordering police to free El Mahroug one night after she got arrested. The prosecution claimed he was covering his tracks; Berlusconi said he was only trying to avoid an international incident because El Mahroug told him she was the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak, then the president of Egypt.

This isn't Berlusconi's first rodeo. The billionaire has been convicted several times at trial, only to walk free as each case was overturned in appeals court or dismissed after the statute of limitations ran out.

In this case, there are still two levels of appeals to go through, meaning it could be years before Berlusconi would, if the conviction is upheld, face any jail time. It's not impossible that each level of Italy's three-tiered court system would find him guilty, but considering he has faced 20 trials since starting his political career in 1994, most observers believe he will avoid prison.

Even if the courts don't overturn the decision, the media mogul could simply be confined to one of his considerable estates — thanks to a legal system that allows most convicts older than 70 years old to serve their sentences under house arrest or doing community service, a result of Italy's overcrowded prisons.

Not that he is completely out of the woods. He still faces Italy's highest court in a tax-fraud case, which, if the lower courts' decisions are upheld, could land him a four-year jail sentence. That, of course, would likely be reduced to one year and then, thanks to Berlusconi's age, probably knocked down to house arrest.

And if all of that fails? Berlusconi is currently trying to convince President Giorgio Napolitano to appoint him a senator for life, which, coincidentally, would give him immunity from prosecution.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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