DAchim Lippoth enters the courtroom in Cologne Regional Court 20 minutes after the originally scheduled start of the trial. He doesn’t seem to be stressed or irritated, on the contrary. He leisurely walks around the room, past TV cameras and sits between two of his defenders.
For the renowned child photographer, the trial, which began on Tuesday before the 10th Greater Criminal Chamber of the Cologne Regional Court, is about a lot, maybe even everything: it’s about sexualised violence against children and the possession of child pornography.
One accusation worse than the next
When reading the indictment, the prosecutor describes the alleged acts in detail, describing what happened when and how, and adding when Lippoth is believed to have ejaculated. Although the reading lasts less than 13 minutes, it drags on. One accusation is worse than the next. The public prosecutor does not report monotonously, but then soberly.
At the end he summarizes: Achim Lippoth has to answer for 17 criminal offenses in court. The fifty-four-year-old is accused of twelve counts of serious child sexual abuse, four counts of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography material found on cloud storage during a house search in June 2021.
Lippoth is silent
The alleged victims are all boys who were no more than 13 years old at the time of the crime. They are said to have all stood in front of the camera as child models for the photographer. During the deeds they are said to have slept in part and were therefore unable to resist. With individual single mothers of the children, Lippoth formed “family-like associations,” says the prosecutor. He speaks of Lippoth in a “father role”. The abuse is said to have taken place between spring 1999 and summer 2017 or 2018 in Cologne and on trips abroad.
The indictment does not mention two other alleged victims with whom “Zeit-Magazin” spoke before the trial. The magazine made the allegations against the photographer, who has been in custody for nine months, public last week.
“No one is working on truth research”
While Lippoth denied the allegations against the magazine through his lawyers in the summer of 2021, the photographer’s legal counsel announced shortly after the trial began that the photographer did not want to comment on the allegations. And so Lippoth said nothing that day, with one exception: only when the presiding judge asked him to introduce himself did he answer. Always short, often just monosyllabic. Otherwise, he leaves the talking to his three defense attorneys, primarily Ulrich Sommer, who makes a long statement after the indictment has been read out.
“Our client will defend himself in silence,” says the defense attorney at the beginning. Then he gets out – and accuses the investigating officers of misconduct. They would have taken rumors and suspicions for facts; would have built a self-affirming system in which Lippoth can only be a perpetrator; put pressure on alleged victims to testify. “No one is working on truth research,” says Sommer. “You work to put a person in jail.”
The presumption of innocence applies until conviction
The criminal defense lawyer also accuses the journalists of “Zeit-Magazin”. They, along with the people they interviewed from Lippoth’s circle, suggested his guilt. “From our point of view, this process has been manipulated and corrupted,” says Sommer. Meanwhile, Lippoth looks through the courtroom, behaves inconspicuously, sometimes folds his hands in front of his stomach or crosses his arms in front of his chest.
During his time as a children’s photographer, Lippoth took pictures for the New York Times, Vogue, Die Zeit and many other internationally renowned media. Lippoth also took photos for the organization “Innocence in Danger”, which works worldwide against the sexual abuse of children. In the meantime, the organization has announced that it will withdraw all pictures of Lippoth that were created for them between 2004 and 2016.
In Cologne, the first day of the process ends after around 90 minutes, during which process-related issues are the main focus. A total of 28 dates have been scheduled, and they will probably last until autumn. Negotiations are to continue on June 14. The presumption of innocence applies until a final conviction.
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