Nazi photos become an issue as Biber trial looms

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 14, 2010 - 6:54 AM

Judge declined to rule for now on whether to suppress photo of alleged victim as Adolf Hitler.

The criminal sexual conduct case against attorney Aaron Biber took an unusual twist Monday when lawyers disclosed that there are self-portraits of the alleged 15-year-old victim dressed as Adolf Hitler in a Nazi salute.

Defense lawyer Rachael Goldberger said she believes the photos should be shown to a jury because Biber is Jewish and the alleged victim, who is not Jewish, is posing as a man who killed Jews.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Lloyd Zimmerman didn't rule Tuesday on a request from Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judy Johnston to keep the photos out of Biber's trial, scheduled to begin Monday. Zimmerman said he will decide later whether the photos are relevant.

Biber, 47, of Shorewood, is charged with soliciting a child for sex and first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child under age 16 over whom he was in a position of authority. Until his December arrest, Biber worked in a downtown Minneapolis law firm and was treasurer of the State Bar Association.

If a jury finds Biber was in a position of authority, he could face a substantial prison sentence if convicted.

Goldberger said the heart of the defense will be that the boy was more controlling than Biber. "He controlled when they got together ... when they could talk and who would be in the dominant position" during sexual acts, Goldberger said.

Johnston argued the photos are so inflammatory and emotional that they shouldn't be shown to a jury. She said the teenager isn't anti-Semitic and only posed for the photo after Biber "victimized" him. She said the victim was upset and hospitalized because he was suicidal, then when he later became angry and wanted to kill Biber, the teen's parents hospitalized him again.

Zimmerman said the case itself is inflammatory but said he will decide whether the jury should see the photos in the context of all the evidence.

Zimmerman also declined a request from Goldberger to delay the trial's start so she can get more of the prosecution's evidence. Johnston said she already had turned over everything she has.

The judge also denied Goldberger's motion to exclude text messages between Biber and the boy because she hasn't received them all. "We can't fight what we can't see," she said.

Johnston said the text messages are crucial because, she claims, Biber admits to all the elements of the crime in them. She read some in court, including one in which Biber said, "I love watching you sleep" and "When can you sleep over?"

Johnston said the texts show Biber "actively using his position of authority to manipulate the child." Some of the texts include explicit photographs of Biber and his accuser.

A conference is scheduled Thursday afternoon to discuss remaining issues.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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