In September 2019, police searches at a sports school and a private address in Düsseldorf made headlines – 1.5 years later it is certain that there will be a trial. A former national soccer player from North Rhine-Westphalia: Christoph Metzelder will have to answer in court from the end of April. The Düsseldorf District Court has admitted the prosecutor’s indictment from the beginning of September 2020, as the court announced on Monday. This also means that the former professional footballer must personally sit in the dock and face a public trial.
The investigators accuse the 40-year-old of “having undertaken to obtain possession of child pornographic material for a person in 29 cases” and of having owned child and youth pornographic material in one case. Metzelder is said to have sent photos showing sexual violence against children to a woman from Hamburg via Whatsapp. This former friend had initiated the investigation against Metzelder in the first place by filing a complaint with the Hamburg police.
The woman is now also being investigated.
So far, the district court has set three dates for the criminal trial against Metzelder until mid-May. For the former national player, the presumption of innocence applies until a final decision in the criminal proceedings, he denies the allegations. Last year things looked different, when the Düsseldorf Administrative Court had written a ruling of “the applicant’s confession” (meaning Metzelder). What exactly he confessed, however, does not tell. In the meantime, the 40-year-old has changed his defense lawyer, he is now defended by Ulrich Sommer from Cologne. And with the change of defender, the defense strategy also seems to change.
Partial legal victory for Metzelder
What hasn’t changed in the past 18 months, however: Metzelder’s silence in public. Right from the start, Metzelder’s media attorney tried to prevent any reports of suspicion about his client. However, current case law is that reports of suspected criminal offenses may also be reported in an identified manner if the person concerned is “with a role model and role model” and the suspicion affects the public significantly.
For a long time, Metzelder was seen as a role model in society and had campaigned publicly for children’s rights and child welfare – among other things, in 2006 he set up his own foundation for disadvantaged children and young people. For this he received the Federal Cross of Merit in 2017.
The height of the fall is correspondingly large if such a person is mentioned in connection with the suspicion of sexual depiction of children.
The Düsseldorf District Court was not allowed to report in detail on the details of the indictment in the form of a press release posted on the Internet with mention of the name. However, the court was allowed to “truthfully inform media representatives, naming their names, about the indictment and the allegation in abstract form with reference to the presumption of innocence”.
That was decided by the North Rhine-Westphalian Higher Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster and thus partially overturned a decision of the lower court. At that time, Metzelder’s lawyers were unable to assert themselves by demanding that the district court provide guidelines for future press work.
The OVG also did not find the naming of the former national player to be a problem for media representatives. And so was his name in the short press release of the Düsseldorf District Court on Monday.