Fellner appeals after judgment for defamation against the amount of the penalty

Appointed after the judgment for defamation Austria-Editor Wolfgang Fellner against the amount of the penalty. Fellner had described a memory protocol of his ex-employee Katia Wagner about joint meetings in the spring of 2021 as “fictitious”, Wagner complained. She is one of several women who raise allegations of sexual harassment against Fellner, which he rejects.

At the end of 2021, the media manager at the Vienna Criminal Court was sentenced to a fine of 120,000 euros for defamation, three quarters of which were conditional. At the trial, he had initially pleaded not guilty – it was only when sound recordings of the meeting were presented that he confessed. Fellner filed a full appeal the day after the trial.

Fellner has now appealed against the amount of the sentence through his lawyer Georg Zanger, but not against the judgment. The editor is calling for the penalty to be reduced from 120 to 50 daily rates, reports the Standard.

Fellner “under constant fire”

He is “under constant fire for alleged sexual harassment by the media,” it says in the appeal, and there is talk of a “persistent media shit storm”.

Fellner found himself “in the situation of someone hounded by the media and driven around” when he was confronted by a journalist with Wagner’s statements. An opportunity to comment was given “only within 24 hours”: “It is obvious that due to this enormous time pressure and the media hype that could be expected from the threatened publication, the accused acted impulsively and was not able to think through every word and its effects.” He must be allowed to “have answered excessively emotionally”.

The request described by Fellner came from Standard. The newspaper writes that the publisher had 25 hours to reply and that it was given in writing shortly before the deadline.

Self-commissioned analysis submitted

The appeal also states that the verdict was “given under the impression of a manipulatively abbreviated transcript”. “If the court had listened to the tape before the verdict was pronounced, the sentence would have been lower.”

However, Fellner and his lawyers refrained from playing the recording during the trial.

On his appointment, Fellner presented the compliance analysis for the first time to the auditing firm BDO, which was commissioned by his media company in connection with the allegations of sexual harassment. This is also referred to in the appeal: “Responsibly” Fellner commissioned this analysis to clarify the allegations of sexual harassment. “It was recorded that not a single incident of sexual harassment had been reported.” Fellner could “never be proven wrongdoing, which is why he is to be regarded as rehabilitated.”

“A bad joke”

This could only be “a bad joke”, writes Wagner’s lawyer Michael Rami in the counter-argument and points out that meanwhile “five women have incriminated the accused independently in court or in the public prosecutor’s office”: Among them are the three former known to the public Fellner’s employees – Katia Wagner, Raphaela Scharf and Angela Alexa -, another former employee who described a pat on the bottom as “fun” and a loyalty tester. More victims have already reported to Rami.

The private prosecutor, i.e. Wagner, does not understand what significance the BDO’s compliance analysis should have for the present proceedings: The analysis was limited to the period from September 2016 to June 2021, Wagner’s allegations relate to meetings from 2015 The number of people questioned (23 employees) is also criticized as being too low in the counter-statement.

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