Mayor convicted of faking arson attack
Amid a long-standing feud between the town hall and residents of Rickenbach, in the southern reaches of Germany's Black Forest, the town's mayor has been fined €18,000 for faking an arson attack on his office.
Prosecutors accused Rickenbach mayor Norbert Moosmann and his partner of fraud and faking a crime, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday. While Moosmann's defence team condemned what it calls a biased investigation tainted by a "climate of prejudice."
But Judge Bernhard Seyffert was convinced of the pair's guilt, saying that though the motive could not be precisely defined, "because of his unstable psychological situation, the mayor apparently wanted to present himself as the victim." Moosmann's unnamed partner was fined €4,500 for his part in the crime.
Moosmann greeted the verdict with a vigorous shake of the head, Der Spiegel wrote. "I am shocked," the 41-year-old told the court. "I am innocent. And I expected the court to end this intrigue against me."
Moosmann told authorities he was sitting alone in his office on Sunday, July 3, 2011, when a bottle filled with methylated spirits was hurled through an open window. He alerted police at 8:13pm.
A note found in the lobby of the Rickenbach town hall read, "Moosi, tired of living? We don't need you as mayor! For the last time: Get lost! Or you'll be blown up!"
Authorities said the bottle turned out to be a fake Molotov cocktail, but he refused to return to the town hall, saying he feared for his life.
Moosmann was elected mayor of Rickenbach in February 2007. At first, residents saw the former postal service employee as a promising new start for the community. But just months later, the honeymoon was over. Der Spiegel said Moosmann became increasingly unpopular with members of the local council, who criticised his gruff tone and go-it-alone mentality.
The mayor's decision in 2008 to move in with his partner, who lived about 90 kilometres away, further poisoned Moosmann's ties with his constituents.
The next year, the mayor spent months on sick leave due to heart troubles - though rumours spread in Rickenbach that Moosmann was actually skiving off.
The spirit of ill will between the mayor and Rickenbach's residents continued to spread in the months that followed - and in 2010, the town hall received a package addressed to Moosmann that contained a dead mouse lying in a blob of ketchup.
The mayor checked himself into a medical centre complaining of "severe post-traumatic stress disorder" - saying he felt he was being bullied - and did not return to work until July 2011, just two days before the alleged arson attempt.
Der Spiegel said investigators are convinced that Moosmann planted both the bottle and letter himself. They also claim the mayor's partner barricaded the door to make it appear as if Moosmann had been trapped inside his office.
Prosecutors say surveillance footage proves that a car rented under the mayor's name had stopped in front of city hall at 8pm on the day of the supposed attack. The driver apparently entered the building and left just two minutes later.
According to the prosecution, Moosmann stood to benefit from faking the arson attempt. If the mayor were able to prove he was unfit for work due to a job-related accident, they said, he would be entitled to a bigger monthly pension.