On 28 July 1988, he was arrested with Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Pietrostefani for the alleged murder of police officer Luigi Calabresi on 17 May 1972. The charges against them were based on testimony provided by Leonardo Marino, an ex-activist who self-accused himself, sixteen years later, of having taken part to the assassination of Calabresi. Marino confessed that the assassination had been decided by the leaders of Lotta Continua, Sofri and Pietrostefani, who put him and another militant, Ovidio Bompressi, in charge of the execution. Marino claimed he was driving the car, while Bompressi had allegedly executed Calabresi. Thus, Lotta Continua, or, as the Court declared it, an "illegal structure" inside Lotta Continua, has been sentenced to be responsible for Calabresi's death, which marked the first political assassination of the anni di piombo.
Certainly, Lotta Continua remains a prime suspect, since Calabresi had been the objective of an extensive press campaign by the movement's newspaper because of his alleged involvement in the death of anarchist Pino Pinelli. Specifically, as of 15 December 1969, the Lotta Continua newspaper directed by Sofri explicitly claimed that Calabresi had to be "shot dead" and the press campaign against the Police officer violently continued during the next few days. Pinelli, a young anarchist militant, had been detained as it was suspected to be involved in the 12 December 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, an allegation that was dropped after his death. While being interrogated, Pinelli fell from a window of the police building in Milan on 15 December 1969. All the policemen present in the interrogation room claimed that he committed suicide, but many leftist circles and press fueled the Lotta Continua campaign because they believed him to have been murdered and, supposedly, found many inconsistencies in the policemen's version. It is worth noting that Calabresi and other police officers were investigated for Pinelli's death, but these charges were eventually dropped in 1975 since the prosecutor found no evidence either for suicide or for an assassination, and suggested the possibility of an "active faintness".
In the long series of trials, that spanned about two decades and that alternated acquittals with sentences of guilt, the evidence against Sofri was only the confession of pentito ("collaborator of justice") Leonardo Marino, who accused Sofri of having ordered him, as chief of Lotta Continua, to assassinate Calabresi, during a meeting held on a piazza after a demonstration in Pisa on 13 May 1972, in the name of Franco Serantini, an anarchist who died from lack of care in the police station following a demonstration in the same city on May 5.
Sofri denied having talked with Marino at this alleged meeting, pointing out that on this day, it was pouring rain, and that the town was under surveillance by the police. This was confirmed by other participants of the demonstration.
Various pieces of evidence for the trial have disappeared throughout the years. First, the clothes which Calabresi was wearing on the day of his death were never found. Second, the blue Fiat 125 (which Marino declared beige) was put to the breaker's yard on 31 December 1988, five months after the arrest of the indicted members of Lotta Continua (although it had been conserved since 25 August 1972). Third, the bullet which killed Calabresi was put to auction on 15 April 1990, after a flooding which had damaged the office holding the material evidence of the crime 
Marino initially claimed that the weight of his conscience had pushed him to confess his crimes, which he allegedly had done on 19 July 1988 to the carabinieri in Ameglia, a little town, before going to Milan where he allegedly described with precision the assassination of Calabresi – remaining before to general facts – to Ferdinando Pomarici, substitute of the attorney, and investigative magistrate Antonio Lombardi. However, on 20 February 1990, two years after the beginning of the trial, a witness of the Court, carabinieri officer Emilio Rossi, declared that Marino had first presented himself to the carabinieris in Ameglia on 2 July 1988. Although historian Carlo Ginzburg has interrogated himself on the possibility that Marino's contact with the carabinieri were to be traced to May, in any cases, the judicial documents did not register this period during which Marino was in contact with the Italian authorities .
A lot of others discrepancies in Marino's testimony against Sofri have led many to suspect the reliability of his words, on which Sofri's sentence exclusively relies. These include his first account, where he claimed that Bompressi and Sofri ordered him the assassination, whether that later became only Sofri; his description of the itinerary that he allegedly followed immediately after the crime, during which he said he had gone in the exact opposite direction of where the Fiat had been finally abandoned; confusion about when his qualms of conscience came to arise, as soon as 1972 or in "the last three years"; the fact that he had been convicted for armed robbery on 1987, thus making his claims about his moral concerns dubious ...
Furthermore, the description of the crime scene by eyewitnesses contradicted those of Leonardo Marino. But the Cour d'assise of Milan, headed by the president Manlio Minale, finally decided that Marino's testimony was completely reliable, which was allegedly not the case of those various eyewitnesses invoked during the trial.
On the other hand, it has to be noticed that Marino's confession was given so many time after the facts that some contradictions are somewhat unavoidable.
Sofri was eventually convicted on the sole words of Leonardo Marino, and sentenced to serve 22 years in the prison of Pisa on 2 May 1990. Pietrostefani and Bompressi also received 22 years, while Marino was sentenced to 11 years. Sofri announced his decision not to make appeal, as such an act would, in his eyes, legitimate the court's judgement – and he adamantly maintained his innocence. In 1991, the Court of Appeals validate the sentence for the others indicted members of Lotta Continua, but it was reverted the following year by the Court of cassation. Sofri and others were acquitted in 1994. However, after the Cassation's cancellation of the previous judgment, a new trial took place, and they were convicted, again, to 22 years of prison, in 1995 – apart of the pentito Leonardo Marino, who benefited from the Statute of Limitations for the crimes (except Sofri, Marino and others were also accused of armed robberies). The Court of Cassation confirmed this last judgment in 1997. Pietrostefani, who was residing in France, and no chances of being extradited as French law would have considered the crimes to have fallen under the Statute of Llimitations, voluntarily returned to Italy (as would, in another affair, philosopher Antonio Negri) in order to struggle, alongside his comrades, for the recognition of their innocence.
The convictions were upheld, apparently definitively, in 2000. Sofri has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so to this day. He has become a respected columnist and intellectual, writing in Il Foglio and La Repubblica Italian daily newspapers, with the first one right-wing, but edited by his friend and former PCI member Giuliano Ferrara, and the second left-wing oriented. He also writes editorials in Panorama, a conservative newsmagazine owned by Berlusconi's Mondadori publishing house.
At the end of November, 2005, Adriano Sofri suffered Boerhaave syndrome while in jail. He was moved to a hospital and may be free to return home after being released from the hospital. Justice Minister Roberto Castelli refused in December 2005 to grant him pardon. However, after the defeat of the Silvio Berlusconi government during the April 2006 election, the new Justice Minister, Clemente Mastella, announced that Sofri could be pardoned before the end of the calendar year, although he continues to refuse to ask for a pardon, saying such a request would be admission of guilt. But the Justice Minister declared that "The truth is that 34 years after the events Sofri is a very sick person to whom one can offer a spontaneously humane gesture." 
Carlo Ginzburg, who usually studies witch-hunts during the Inquisition and microhistory, has written a book concerning this alleged "miscarriage of justice" and the relations, and differences, between the works of a judge and of a historian.
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