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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Head of German public broadcaster quits over sleaze allegations

A prominent German journalist on Thursday resigned as chair of the board of Germany's ARD broadcaster after being accused of awarding controversial consultancy contracts and misusing public funds.

Head of German public broadcaster quits over sleaze allegations

“The public discussion about decisions and procedures… that fall within my area of responsibility has now extended to ARD as a whole,” Patricia Schlesinger said in a statement.    

Schlesinger is the head of Berlin radio station RBB, a regional member of the ARD network – one of the world’s biggest TV and radio networks.    

The 61-year-old took up the chairmanship of the ARD network earlier this year under a rotational system.  

 According to ARD, Schlesigner has been under fire over consultancy contracts awarded at RBB, which she has headed since 2016.    

Some German media have also accused her of using a company car for private trips and paying for meals at home with licence fee money.    

Schlesinger said she was giving up her chairmanship of ARD in order to help “shed light on the accusations.”    

ARD has an annual budget of almost 7 billion euros, financed mainly by a licence fee.    

It employs around 23,000 people at nine regional channels, which also produce national programmes, and one channel aimed at an international audience. 

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