In a German Town, Court Finds That Mayor Cried Wolf

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BERLIN -- He had received threatening letters, even a dead mouse in a package. His car had been vandalized. So when the mayor of the small Black Forest town of Rickenbach reported that he had been the victim of a criminal assault, it at first seemed plausible.

The mayor, Norbert Moosmann, told the police that someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail through his office window, one that proved to be empty but sent him into a panic. He said that when he tried to flee, he found his door had been jammed shut.

And Mr. Moosmann, who is gay, had his share of enemies around town. He had not worked in a year, instead collecting disability after receiving a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. In famously industrious Germany, that did not sit well with some of the townspeople.

But his story came apart once the police had a chance to examine the video from a security camera outside the town hall around the time of the assault. It showed a car stopping in front of the building and a not particularly menacing-looking man getting out -- empty-handed.

On Tuesday, a district court convicted Mr. Moosmann of staging the attack, which took place in July last year, and fined him nearly $23,000.

"The mayor was convicted of fabricating a crime," said the judge, Bernhard Seyffert. "We assume that he threw the bottle himself."

The court also found that an accomplice had wedged the door shut, and that one of the two even left a bogus threat letter. The accomplice turned out to be Mr. Moosmann's boyfriend, who was fined $5,700 for his role in the episode.

Spiegel Online, a news Web site, reported that Mr. Moosmann had a strained relationship with the town's inhabitants, some of whom would like to see him resign from the office that he has held since 2007, even though his term is not scheduled to expire until 2015.

Some residents had been immediately skeptical of Mr. Moosmann's story, Spiegel reported, and suspected at least some of the previous attacks had been staged as well. They pointed to the dubious nature of the vandalism against the mayor's car, noting that the words "Moosi Go Home" -- referring to Mr. Moosmann -- had been scrawled in washable paint.

Judge Seyffert acknowledged the public's skepticism but dismissed as speculation any accusations that the mayor had faked any threats other than the attack on his office. The judge added that Mr. Moosmann's motive for staging the attack remains unclear, though some thought it was a play for sympathy and continued disability payments.

After the trial, Mr. Moosmann expressed his disappointment to reporters.

"I'm stunned," a German news agency, dpa, quoted him as saying. "I'm innocent, and I had expected the court to finally put this intrigue against me to rest."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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