Judge denies move to seal papers in alleged neo-Nazi’s trial
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A judge in Virginia on Friday denied efforts to keep documents sealed in the case of a man with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies who is accused of killing his girlfriend’s parents.
The ruling follows motions by The Washington Post and The Associated Press to access the records, citing the public’s interest and the news organizations’ constitutional rights. Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Brett Kassabian said in court that his order won’t take effect for 10 days to give the defense and prosecution time to appeal. He was expected to issue a written ruling later.
The documents’ pending release is expected to reveal more details from the yearslong prosecution of Nicholas Giampa, which has been shrouded in secrecy since the December 2017 shootings.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys argued that releasing the records could jeopardize the case.
Giampa was 17 when authorities charged him in the killings of Scott Fricker, 48, and Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, in their Herndon, Virginia, home.
The case attracted national attention because of evidence Giampa espoused neo-Nazi philosophies. Neighbors said the teen mowed a huge swastika into a community field. Family members have said the killings occurred after Fricker and Kuhn-Fricker intervened to try to stop their daughter from dating Giampa.
Few details about the case had been released, at first because Giampa was a juvenile. Giampa is now an adult and being tried as one, but the judge had previously ordered the overwhelming bulk of the court file sealed from the public.
In an order dated July 8 that has been made public, Judge Brett Kassabian granted a motion from Giampa’s lawyers to suppress statements he made because authorities hadn’t provided “a knowing intelligent waiver of his Miranda Rights,” which guarantee his right to remain silent and to speak to an attorney before he speaks to police.
The order did not explain how officers failed to grant Giampa his rights. And prosecutors’ arguments as to why they believe Giampa’s statements were lawfully obtained were not made public.
Kassabian took the unusual step of sealing the case file, even though Virginia law favors open court records except under extraordinary circumstances.
At a 2018 hearing, psychologists testified that brain damage from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the attacks rendered Giampa unable to fully understand trial proceedings. But at least one psychologist testified that Giampa would eventually be able to recover sufficiently to participate in his defense.
The trial has now been delayed for years for multiple reasons. The most recent appeal is likely to delay it for at least another year.