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Weatherman Kachelmann acquitted of rape

After a 14-month legal drama in which lawyers were sacked, the impartiality of judges challenged and the accuser’s story changed, German TV weatherman Jörg Kachelmann was cleared on Tuesday of charges of raping his former girlfriend.

Weatherman Kachelmann acquitted of rape
Photo: DPA

The roller-coaster 44-day trial ended with the ruling by a court in Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg, of in dubio pro reo, or when in doubt, for the accused.

But it remains to be seen if Kachelmann, long Germany’s best-known weatherman, can ever return to the nation’s leading news programme Tagesschau on public TV channel ARD.

Judge Michael Seidling stressed the court was not actually convinced of Kachelmann’s innocence, and nor did it necessarily believe that his former girlfriend had made a false accusation. Rather, the grounds for suspicion had in the course of lengthy trial been “diminished but not banished,” he concluded.

The judge sharply criticised defence lawyer Johann Schwenn, whom he said had repeatedly shown a lack of respect and decency before the court. But the sentence was greeted with jubilation in the courtroom by Kachelmann’s supporters, prompting cries from the public gallery.

The prosecutors accused the 52-year-old Swiss citizen and founder of the Meteomedia company of violently raping his former long-time girlfriend in February last year. The woman said he had held a knife to her throat as he attacked her in her apartment in the Rhein-Neckar county. Prosecutors had sought a jail sentence of four years and three months.

The 14-month ordeal began in March last year when police arrested Kachelmann at Frankfurt airport as he returned from Vancouver, Canada, where he had been covering the Winter Olympics for ARD.

What followed was a veritable saga as Kachelmann was detained on remand, and then released. His former girlfriend changed details of her allegations and at one point a court in Karlsruhe ruled that Kachelmann should be released from remand because the cases rested on the accuser’s word against the defendant’s.

Arrest warrants were issued then quashed. Defender Reinhard Birkenstock twice unsuccessfully challenged the partiality of the judges.

An expert commissioned by Kachelmann’s team, Bernd Brinkmann, was accused by the state prosecutors of bias.

The accuser at one point turned up to the Mannheim court shielding her face from photographers by holding up a book titled, “The Sociopath Next Door.” In September, she told reporters she no longer wanted to take part in the trial, though she eventually gave four days’ testimony.

In November, Kachelmann sacked his lead lawyer Birkenstock and co-defender Klaus Schroth and hired the Hamburg lawyer Johann Schwenn.

Schwenn accused the magazines Focus and Bunte of trying to influence the trial. He later forced Germany’s most famous feminist, Alice Schwarzer, onto the witness stand after she had written for Bild newspaper about her contact with the accuser’s therapist. Schwarzer exercised her right to refuse to testify on matters arising from her work as a journalist.

State prosecutors Oskar Gattner and Lars-Torben Oltrogge reported that Kachelmann’s ex-girlfriend had lied to accusers but maintained there was still a case to be heard.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they would consider an appeal.

Following Tuesday’s verdict, Meteomedia announced he would return to work at the company he helped found. Kachelmann is also expected to return to the airwaves on Radio Basel, at which he used to take part in a weekly radio show, according to editor-in-chief Christian Heeb.

Meteomedia said in a statement: “Jörg Kachelmann will immediately return to his role at the Meteomedia group.”

DAPD/DPA/The Local/djw

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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