Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been ordered to court to stand trial on charges he paid for sex with an underage girl, then abused his authority in an attempted cover up. A judge handed down an indictment today, and trial is set to begin in early April, reports MSNBC. The case threatens to finally topple the scandal-plagued leader. Belusconi, 74, said yesterday he has no intention, however, of relinquishing his office even after hundreds of thousands of Italian women protested the aging leader over the weekend.
Berlusconi is charged with paying to have sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl, then using his influence to get her out of police custody when she was detained in a suspected theft. Critics say Belusconi used his power to help the girl, fearing exposure of the affair could ruin him. Though the prime minister has stood trial on several business-related corruption charges, this is the first to address his sexual behavior, which has reportedly involved mansion orgies and "pay-off" appointments of models and showgirls to political office. "Every woman that has had the opportunity to know me knows my regard for them. I have always behaved with the greatest attention and respect toward them," Berlusconi said. "I have always made it so that every woman feels special."