FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — The trial of a Virginia man with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies accused of murdering his girlfriend’s parents has been delayed after incriminating statements he made were tossed out by a judge.
Prosecutors are appealing a ruling issued earlier this month by a judge presiding over the murder trial of Nicholas Giampa. He was just 17 when he was arrested in December 2017 and charged with the murder 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.
But the case has been shrouded in secrecy, at first because Giampa was a juvenile. Now, though, Giampa is an adult and is being tried as one.
Still, the judge in the case has ordered the overwhelming bulk of the court file sealed from the public. A July 8 order was made public in which the judge, Brett Kassabian, said he was granting a motion from Giampa’s lawyers to suppress statements he made “based upon the Commonwealth not providing a knowing intelligent waiver of his Miranda Rights,” which guarantee his right to remain silent and his right to speak to an attorney before he speaks to police.
But Kassabian’s order does not explain how officers failed to grant Giampa his rights. And prosecutors’ arguments as to why they believe Giampa’s statements were lawfully obtained are not public.
A spokeswoman for Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano confirmed that prosecutors are appealing the judge’s ruling to the state Court of Appeals, but the office declined further comment. Public Defender Dawn Butorac also declined comment.
Kassabian took the unusual step of sealing the case file, despite Virginia law presuming court records should be open except under extraordinary circumstances. On Tuesday, in response to multiple calls and a hand-delivered letter from The Associated Press requesting reconsideration and clarification of his reasons for sealing the court file, his office said he would respond only to a formal court motion.
The case has involved significant mental health issues. 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 his faculties 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 the trial at least another year.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.