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Germany

Judge Rules Manslaughter in Death of Olympian's Wife

A court in Heidelberg has found a 57-year-old man guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the traffic death of Susann Steiner -- the wife of a German Olympic gold-medal-winning weightlifter. But he says it didn't help.

Matthias Steiner of Germany holds the gold medal he's dedicating to his late wife Susann

Steiner's tribute to his wife was one of the more moving moments in Beijing

The case attracted public attention this summer at the Beijing Olympic Games, when weightlifter Matthias Steiner held up a photograph of his wife while accepting the gold medal he had just won.

In June 2007, 22-year-old Susann Steiner died after her compact car collided head-on with an SUV driven by the defendant on the wrong side of the road.

The court found the defendant guilty of wrongfully causing Steiner's death because he was driving at least 15 kilometers an hour above the legal speed limit.

"She died because of the force of the collision," said the judge at the trial, Regina Kaufmann-Granda. "Her injuries would have been considerably less serious if the speed had been lower."

The defendant was given a ten-month suspended jail sentence and a fine of 2400 euros ($3207).

No closure

The defendant claimed he was unable to remember the accident and did not testify other than to offer a statement of regret.

Matthias Steiner said he was disappointed with the trial.

"I was never interested in the length of the sentence," Steiner told AP news agency. "I just wanted clarity and an apology. I got nothing of the sort. All that remains is a black hole."

The judge said she doubted the defendant was truly suffering from amnesia or had blacked out before the crash.

"You know exactly what happened," she told the defendant during the trial. "If you'd been unconscious you would have driven on more or less straight ahead instead of swerving so dramatically."

The judge said that the defendant, who previously had a clean driving record, would be eligible to re-apply for his license in six months time, and that it would be up to the relevant authorities to decide if he would be allowed back on the road.

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