Cocaine-cop trial stuns Bavarian town
For years no-one noticed that the head of the drug squad in Kempten, Bavaria, was on a personal rampage of narcotics- and domestic abuse - until his wife shopped him for the €250,000 brick of cocaine he had stashed. But the local population isn't buying the story.
A day after the trial opened in the southern town, Tuesday's headlines told it concisely enough: 'Commissioner Coke in handcuffs: he had 1.8 kilos of cocaine in his locker "for personal use",' wrote Bild newspaper.
The state court in the picturesque town of 60,000 inhabitants was packed with spectators and media for what a local journalist described to The Local as "one of the largest trials in Kempten in the last ten years".
But despite a 20-year history of drug use while serving, the case against 52-year-old Armin N. might never have come about: The officer was only arrested and the drugs discovered in February last year, hours after he allegedly beat and raped his wife on Valentine's Day in the latest physical assault against her.
He is accused of having previously threatened to kill her while wearing full uniform, prompting her to jump from their apartment balcony and crack a vertebra.
"I am deeply ashamed of this aggression," said the defendant, who did not challenge his wife's account of events as read to the court by a lawyer in her absence. "It should never have come to these attacks."
Also intoxicated with substances and over the legal alcohol limit to drive on the night of the claimed rape, he said he had no recollection of the events.
"I can only assume I was driving to the office to shoot myself," said Armin N., who kept his composure throughout the hearing.
'Hidden' slide into addiction
According to the officer's testimony, his downward slide began in 1994, when he claims he had access to confiscated narcotics "for training purposes". Dabbling with ecstasy, cannabis and cocaine became an addiction that he claims he successfully hid from his colleagues for many years.
He also took large amounts of medications together with the substances, he said.
Questioned about the source of the large block of cocaine found in his possession, the officer claimed he had had it for ten years and could no longer remember. The drugs likely came from a colleague or the regional prosecutor's office, he said.
"Through my constant dealings with narcotics I lost my distance to them," he said.
Aware that her husband was in a downward spiral, his wife said in her testimony that she would have alerted authorities sooner but was too afraid of him to act.
The court also heard that the defendant had already paid his wife €35,000 in damages and was covering her court costs.
More questions than answers
The fact that a relatively mild sentence of six to seven years is already being brokered by the sides before the verdict is announced on February 9 is sounding alarms in Kempten and beyond.
"Ridiculous!" one of around 40 spectators called out. Another predicted that "He'll walk away from this simply because he's a policeman".
"People are sceptical that everything will be brought into the open," Simon Ruisinger, one of a team of local journalists covering the story for the all-in.de online newspaper, told The Local.
Many in the town are finding it hard to believe that the defendant's colleagues did not notice his addiction for so long, he added.
Spectators queued from the early morning, including a woman who had been waiting for three hours for the 9 a.m. opening of the court: "You just have to follow such a major trial," she told the website.
The attention is only expected to grow as the trial passes several more hearings before the verdict is announced.
"We are getting a huge amount of inquiries from citizens, with daily calls to request [spectator] seats;" said court spokesman Robert Kriwanek.
The case made most national newspapers on Tuesday, drawing mixed reactions from readers.
Of 889 participants in a straw poll conducted by Bild, 27 percent expressed amusement over the case against 62 percent who were "furious".
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