MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana defense attorney representing a man charged with killing a German exchange student in his garage said Wednesday that his law firm is cancelling plans to host a live showing of the World Cup soccer match between the U.S. and Germany.
At a hearing earlier Wednesday, District Judge Ed McLean urged defense attorney Paul Ryan to reconsider his firm's plan to host the viewing at a city park on Thursday, saying that the firm appeared to be conducting a public relations campaign ahead of the trial.
"If you're going to play to the public, don't expect me to be flexible with the venue," McLean told Ryan.
McLean tentatively set a Jan. 5 trial date for Ryan's client, Markus Kaarma of Missoula. He said the deliberate homicide trial could be moved to December if a larger courtroom became available sooner.
Kaarma, 24, is charged with shooting 17-year-old Diren Dede in April. He has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide and remains free on bond.
Dede played soccer at Big Sky High School in Missoula and with a club team in Missoula. His former team in Hamburg played a charity match to help his family pay for Dede's funeral.
A Missoulian reporter talked with Ryan after the viewing party was announced. Ryan said the event had nothing to do with preparation for Kaarma's defense.
"Honestly, that didn't cross my mind," Ryan said Tuesday. "We were just excited about the game and we wanted to provide this to the community. I hope it doesn't turn into something negative. It's just a weird timing of the two teams that match up. It doesn't have anything to do with our case."
But after Wednesday's hearing with McLean, Ryan announced he was canceling the viewing party.
"Due to the unintended consequences and reaction to our attempt to have a viewing party for the USA soccer match, we are canceling the event scheduled for tomorrow," Ryan's firm said in a statement. "We apologize for any emotional distress this may have caused to any members of this community."
Prosecutors alleged Kaarma set a trap to catch whoever had been breaking into his garage after thieves took marijuana, credit cards and a cellphone. He told a hairdresser that he had been waiting up nights to shoot a kid because he was frustrated about the thefts while neighbors said he was behaving strangely in the hours before the shooting, court records said.
Two teens who had been arrested prior to the shooting later confessed to being responsible for the theft of the marijuana and other items, court records said. Those teens said Dede had nothing to do with the break-ins, court records said.