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Czech court sentences youth to four months in prison for threatening to shoot man on Facebook

8.12.2016 6:51
The CCTV footage from the pizzeria in the Czech town of Žatec where a young Romani man died on 18 October 2016. (PHOTO:
The CCTV footage from the pizzeria in the Czech town of Žatec where a young Romani man died on 18 October 2016. (PHOTO:

Yesterday the District Court in Louny sentenced 20-year-old Vladimír Kudráč to four months in prison for making a death threat. The case is connected to the October death of a Romani man at a pizzeria in the Czech town of Žatec.

Kudráč used the Facebook social networking site to threaten to shoot a chef from the pizzeria and has admitted to writing the post. The verdict has taken effect and neither the defense nor the prosecution will appeal.

The sentence will be served in a maximum-security prison. The unfortunate incident that resulted in the Romani man's death happened in mid-October and sparked tensions in Žatec.

The Romani man, who is said to have probably been on drugs at the time, arrived at the pizzeria and a scuffle ensued between him and other customers. He was held down on the floor by them until police arrived.

His collapse and the death happened after police intervened. The first autopsy did not find evidence that a third party had been involved in his death, the cause of which is supposed to be clarified by laboratory tests, but their results are still unknown.

Detectives are continuing to investigate. After news spread of the death, a name said to be that of the pizzeria's chef was posted to social networking sites along with allegations that he had killed the Romani man.

Kudráč then commented on the incident on Facebook. Among other remarks, he posted the following: "I'd shoot him dead in front of his wife. Ciao, enjoy it in hell."

The chef, in fear for his life, filed a criminal report over the post. He left his job for some time and moved out of Žatec together with his girlfriend.

Currently the chef is back working at the pizzeria. "I always drive my car to work now and carry a truncheon with me," he told the Czech News Agency.

Yesterday in court Kudráč apologized to the chef, and a previous letter of apology he wrote to him as well was read into the court record. "I wrote that [post on Facebook] out of emotion, I didn't mean it seriously," Kudráč told the court, adding that he was sorry.

The chef refused to accept his apology. "I understand his apology but I won't accept it. I have experienced a lot of stress and no apology will fix it," he said.

Kudráč is currently also serving a year's probation for a previous instance of the same offense in which he chased a man around the town of Podbořany while waving an ax at him and then, while still on probation, committed fraud with somebody else's bank card, which added time to his probation. "The court took into consideration the fact that [Kudráč] committed this conduct during the probationary period of a suspended sentence," the judge said.

The maximum sentence for the charge is one year in prison. "This sentence was set at one-third of the legally-allowed length after taking into consideration the ameliorating circumstances," the judge said.

State prosecutor Jindřich Koželuh was satisfied with the verdict. He said Kudráč had been, to a certain degree, the victim of a general psychosis about the pizzeria incident and the threats being made against those believed responsible.

"He made just a single post to Facebook. A prison sentence is harsh enough for him. Moreover, since he was and is still on probation, the court has the possiblity to convert it for him, just as if it were mandated hours of community service that he's missed," the prosecutor told the press.

The same prosecutor is also supervising the investigation of the entire incident at the pizzeria. Several assemblies were held in front of the building after news spread of the death.

About 400 people gathered in the town for a memorial assembly at the end of October to honor the memory of the deceased. Most of those assembled, who were predominantly Romani, then set out for the pizzeria where the unfortunate death occurred.

They found the regular, non-Romani customers of the business waiting for them there, as well as other non-Romani people who shouted racist slogans at them such as "Bohemia for the Czechs". Police anti-conflict teams and riot units prevented any further conflict between the two groups.

Now police are also investigating other cases of threats made against employees of the pizzeria in the aftermath of the death. The operations manager of the business described to the court today several cases in which a group of cursing people had shown up in front of the restaurant.

"People were afraid to come to work here, the threats kept escalating," he testified, adding that employees are still concerned to this day. "Where it is proven, where we have CCTV footage or witnesses who provided evidence or other proof, we will prosecute all those who threatened the employees of the pizzeria that way," the state prosecutor said.

The final results of the autopsy should be available, according to the state prosecutor, in mid-December. "After that it should take several weeks more to complete the investigation of this death," he said.

ČTK, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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