Wednesday, July 23, 2008

David Caruso - Austria Aided Stalker's Escape

Did Austria’s behind the scenes maneuvering make it possible for David Caruso's stalker to disappear? By all accounts, Austria is undeniably complicit in Heidi Schnitzer’s second escape. Recall in April 2008 how news services worldwide were flooded with stories detailing Schnitzer's flee to avoid prosecution. Compare that to September 2007, when the story of Schnitzer’s first escape and ultimate capture by the FBI received virtually no press coverage. Why would Austria suppress the David Caruso stalker story in 2007 only to resurrect it as a major headline in April 2008? Like any good publicist, Austria used a tried and true public relations ploy circulating Heidi Schnitzer’s escape drama only when it presented the Austrians in a favorable light.

The lack of press coverage for Schnitzer’s September 2007 escape amounts to nothing more than censorship. Realizing it was not in their best interests to advertise their failure to detain and prosecute a two-bit stalker, the Austrians deliberately kept this story out of the press. Compounding matters, when and if this story had made the papers, Austrians would have been forced to admit they sought the help of the FBI in locating Schnitzer. In April however, things changed. With their legal ducks all in a row and a defense lawyer all too willing to claim that his client would appear for trial, the stage was now set and the Austrians decided to take the media plunge.

For the second time in a year, Schnitzer was allowed to quietly slip out of the country using a passport that Austria should have revoked the first time she fled. Meanwhile, Austrian law enforcement prepared their spin of the situation for release to the press. True, the Austrians would claim, Schnitzer had escaped again. This time however, the Austrians could prove to the world and more importantly the U.S., that they had made a concerted effort to prosecute Schnitzer only to have her escape their jurisdiction. And they could lay the blame for her flight squarely on the shoulders of Gunther Gast, Schnitzer's attorney. The Austrians had successfully managed to shift responsibility for Schnitzer's disappearance from themselves freeing up their Bundeskriminalamt to pursue more pressing matters. For all intents and purposes, the David Caruso stalker case was closed.

Other factors played a role in their decision as well. In early 2008, Austrian law enforcement was dealt an embarrassing setback forcing them to take a long hard look in their own mirror. Seeing their collective involvement in the Josef Fritzl nightmare did not make for a pretty sight. With Schnitzer’s April court date looming and the country still reeling from bad press associated with the Fritzl tragedy, Austria’s Bundeskriminlamt had to make some tough decisions. Would they focus their efforts on the bigger picture reclaiming their reputation as a serious player in the EU’s judicial system or would they focus on tracking down a small time criminal accused of threatening U.S. citizens? With limited time and resources the answer was obvious; Austria could not afford another public relations debacle. It was therefore decided that their foremost concern had to be re-establishing their reputation as a serious law enforcement entity.

In short, Austria had much bigger fish to fry and the Caruso stalker matter did not figure into that equation. Austria's apathetic approach in handling this case amounted to nothing more than a green light for Schnitzer to walk right out of the country. And so she did. Now, Tijuana, Mexico is Heidi Schnitzer's new home for the time being. Unless Schnitzer runs afoul of the Mexicans resulting in her deportation, this case will remain closed. We wouldn't expect anything more from the "look away society" known as Austria.

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