The rush in front of the hall of the Cologne regional court was great: around 30 spectators wanted to be there when the 10th large criminal chamber announced its verdict against a photographer who was accused of sexually abusing child models. In the end, the court sentenced the man on Wednesday to four years and ten months in prison for four counts of serious sexual abuse of three boys. In the remaining twelve accused cases at the expense of three other child photo models, acquittals were issued.
Nevertheless, according to the court itself, it had gained the impression in these cases that what the alleged victims had said in private hearings was "basically correct". However, since some of the events happened many years ago, the specific findings required for a conviction could no longer have been made.
According to the verdict, between 1999 and 2006 the man abused the boy who was then under 14 years old. He therefore prepared his sexual assaults "highly manipulative". As a photographer of children's fashion, he specifically sought contact with "male, prepubescent" children's photo models, presented himself as a fatherly friend and built up an almost family relationship. He spent free time with the boys, played Playstation with them in his penthouse apartment, gave them expensive gifts or took them with him on long-distance trips, including to the Maldives.
Photographer denies the allegations
The photographer had remained silent in the process, but had the allegations about his defenders disputed. They had repeatedly spoken of a conspiracy against their client: According to this, the German was the victim of mothers of former child photo models who were "rebuffed" with their affection by the accused, as well as of former employees who left in the dispute. The presiding judge clearly contradicted this in the verdict: "There was no conspiracy."
Among other things, the chamber assessed the fact that the accused was "professionally destroyed" with the conviction, "at least in the field of children's photography", as a mitigating sentence. The court saw the planned and "consistently implemented" procedure as aggravating the sentence.
The Chamber suspended the pre-trial arrest warrant against the photographer. The accused left the courthouse after around 15 months in the Cologne-Ossendorf prison. Should the verdict become final in this form, he would at some point be given an appointment to begin his detention. The public prosecutor's office lodged a complaint against the release from detention while still in the room. The defense team announced that they would appeal the verdict.