Child pornography trial in Vienna

Suspended sentence for actor Teichtmeister

It’s a deep case: once the darling of the Viennese cultural scene, the actor Teichtmeister was sentenced to a suspended sentence in the child pornography trial. For some a scandal – for others a great moment of the judiciary.

Wolfgang Vichtl

By Wolfgang Vichtl , ARD Vienna

There is a lot of noise outside in front of the Vienna Regional Court: 32 demonstrators have been counted, a gallows they are holding up. They pretend to be child protectors and demonstrated at the weekend in the countryside in front of the defendant’s mother’s house. And they demand: lock up, for life.

Inside the large jury room, which is full to the last seat, there is a judge who is known to be strict and two female lay judges. After three and a half hours the verdict is made: two years in prison, suspended for three years on probation – but only with simultaneous psychotherapy with numerous strict conditions. That means: Florian Teichtmeister does not have to go behind bars.

“A scandal” – the tabloid media raged immediately after the verdict and showed the gallows in the picture again and again. However, Florian Klenk, editor-in-chief of the Viennese magazine “Falter,” says it was a great moment for the Austrian judiciary, which is not always without controversy. The qualified lawyer researched the Teichtmeister case intensively from the beginning. “So it’s a lynching atmosphere, even if the demonstrators now say we don’t want to hang up,” he says. “And the judge said today, I’m not following the pressure of the street.”

Laws tightened

That pressure was great. Austria’s government tightened the laws after the Teichtmeister scandal became known. The initial attempt to downplay the matter – as just a “digital crime” because Teichtmeister never committed any crimes against children himself, but of course those whose videos he collected – triggered a huge storm of indignation in Austria. Teichtmeister’s media lawyer, himself a star of the Viennese scene, withdrew.

Rudolf Mayer only came into play the day before the trial. The 75-year-old criminal defense attorney is knowledgeable and experienced; he has already defended Josef Fritzl – the man who locked his daughter in the basement and raped her for years. Mayer argued vigorously against a celebrity malus at the expense of Teichtmeister. Therapy instead of prison was his plea. And this is how Teichtmeister’s lawyer explained the verdict:

He is not allowed to do anything for three years, otherwise he will have to serve the two years he was given in prison. And if he doesn’t comply with any treatment, he will immediately be locked up in an institution for an indefinite period of time.

Defendant fully confessed

Teichtmeister was charged with “possession” and “production” of abuse videos and photos of minors and young people. “Child porn” was the shortened title of the headline, 76,000 files in total. Teichtmeister edited about half of the files and commented on them with frightening violent fantasies that were painful to listen to; the public prosecutor read many of them out.

The defendant confessed fully. When the police came, he handed in all the laptops, cell phones, hard drives with the incriminating material, including the passwords. In court, the actor said he repented “honestly and sincerely.” And: He wanted to get caught. He started the therapy months ago, at that time still voluntarily.

Guilty plea as a “final curtain”

Until it all blew up, Teichtmeister was one of the darlings of the Viennese cultural scene. Now he will never perform again, no going back to the stages where he played big leading roles. That would produce “legitimate uproar,” says Teichtmeister himself. His guilty plea before the Vienna Regional Court was the “last curtain,” so to speak.

The Viennese cultural scene remains shaken. The question of who knew what and when and perhaps remained silent for too long – it is asked again and again.

The Teichtmeister case presumably left some collateral damage. There is, for example, the Burgtheater director, Martin Kusej, whose commitment was not extended – not only, but probably also because of this. Or the disappointed Oscar hopes for the much-praised Sisi film “Corsage” – it only made it to the shortlist, then the police showed up in the male lead’s apartment and confiscated the files containing depictions of abuse from cinema emperor Franz Joseph. And many popular series that the public ORF no longer wants to repeat. Until further notice.

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