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Pianist conditionally discharged for 'minimal contact' with girl - police say they were misled

Accused complains that CCTV which would have proved his innocence did not work

A Russian pianist has been conditionally discharged after pleading not guilty to having indecently touched two French underage girls in a hotel.

Criminal investigations against the 29-year old Moscow-born musician kicked off after police at the St Julian’s station received a report by two 15-year old students about their separate cases.

The court ordered a ban on publication of the names of all persons involved in the case.

During a court sitting on Tuesday afternoon the two girls gave their versions of what had taken place.  

The first girl explained how on Saturday evening at around 80pm, she was with a group of four friends when they knocked at the door of the hotel room occupied by the Russian, mistaking it for their friends’ room.

When the stranger answered their knock, the girls apologized for the inconvenience and declined the man’s offer to enter the room, using a translation app on their phone to communicate with him.

As they were walking away the man allegedly touched the witness on her shoulder, before she ran off after her friends.

The accused, identified by the girl as “the gentleman who opened the door,” had made no further contact, the witness concluded, prompting prosecuting officer Inspector Nikolai Sant to remark that her version did not tally with that given when filing the police report.

The second witness testified that on Sunday evening she had met the same man in a hotel corridor next to the lift, when he placed his hand on her shoulder.

Insisting that her friends were present when the incident took place, the girl explained how the man’s hand had brushed against her chest as she stepped back suddenly.

Asked by Magistrate Ian Farrugia whether she could identify anyone in
court, the girl turned round singling out her teacher seated on the back benches of the hall and a young police constable seated besides the accused.

The officer was quick to remark “I wasn’t there,” confirming later under oath that he had not been involved in the case.

Asked again by the prosecution, the girl hesitantly ran her gaze over the courtroom before declaring that she recognized the accused. “His face is familiar,” she said, adding that the incident had happened “very fast.”

When the witnesses had left the room, Inspector Sant declared that it appeared that the police had been “misled” in this case since the girls had painted a somewhat different picture when making their report.

Conceding that in respect of the first victim, the accused appeared to have only touched her shoulder, the prosecutor, however, insisted that the charge of violent indecent assault on the second victim did subsist.

Defence lawyer Arthur Azzopardi pointed out that his client’s position, unlike that of the girls, had been “strong, sincere and constant.” The accused had asked the police to view CCTV footage from the hotel and had expressed disappointment upon being told that the cameras were not operational.

Had this footage been available, the police would have pressed charges against the girls for giving false evidence, Dr Azzopardi argued, highlighting the “diametrically opposed” version given by the second alleged victim in court.

His client’s hand had most likely slipped from the girl’s shoulder when she stepped backwards. “These are simply laws of gravity,” Dr Azzopardi stressed.
The girl had likely concocted a story for lack of corroboration and had probably spoken to the other alleged victim, convincing her to file the report.

In the light of all evidence the court declared the accused not guilty of the
charges in respect of the first victim but declared him guilty of indecent assault upon the second victim.

Yet in view of the minimal contact involved, the court conditionally discharged him for 18 months.

The accused has given notice of appeal. 
 

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