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At double-murder trial, jury won’t see defendant’s racist social media

Judge says prosecutors cannot show posts containing praise for Adolf Hitler, among other things

A home in Reston, Va., where two people were killed in 2017. (Cal Cary/For the Washington Post)

A Virginia judge has ruled that prosecutors cannot tell the jury in an upcoming double-murder trial about the defendant’s social media posts containing praise for Adolf Hitler and support for Nazi book burnings and the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, according to newly unsealed court records.

Nicholas Giampa was indicted in 2019 on charges of shooting and killing his girlfriend’s mother, Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and stepfather, Scott Fricker, 48, after they confronted him inside their Reston home three days before Christmas in 2017. The court had kept records in the case hidden from public view, but a judge last month ordered them released after a motion from The Washington Post and the Associated Press, over the objection of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Police say Giampa, who was 17 at the time, shot himself between the eyebrows after the killings. Kuhn-Fricker’s daughter, who was 16 at the time, told police after the shooting that she and Giampa formed a suicide pact after her family forced her to leave him and that they had “discussed wounding her parents” if they tried to stop their plan, according to a police report that was among the newly released documents.

Prosecutors have ruled out charges against the daughter, court records show. Giampa survived, underwent brain surgery and rehabilitation, and now is being tried as an adult. His trial is expected to begin next year. The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23.

Fairfax County Circuit Judge Brett A. Kassabian ruled July 8 that prosecutors cannot mention the neo-Nazi allegations during the trial “due to it being highly prejudicial,” according to a July 21 filing from the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors are appealing a separate ruling from the judge that bars them from using Giampa’s January 2018 confession to police from his hospital bed as evidence. Giampa, who was recovering from his brain injury during the interviews and had difficulty recalling his father’s and girlfriend’s first names, told police that he felt half of his brain was asleep, according to court records. Kassabian ruled that Giampa had not waived his right to remain silent knowingly or intelligently at the time.

Prosecutors are not appealing the judge’s ruling that prohibits mentions of the neo-Nazi allegations, they said.

“We are only appealing the suppressed statement because we don’t have the legal authority to appeal on any other issue,” said Rebecca Campbell, a commonwealth’s attorney spokeswoman. She declined to comment further.

Before her death, Kuhn-Fricker had emailed the principal of the Fairfax County private school for teens with emotional and learning issues that her daughter and Giampa attended, expressing concern that Giampa had retweeted messages praising Hitler, supporting Nazi book burnings, calling for a “white revolution” and making derogatory comments about Jewish people and gay people.

Other tweets embraced the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group, and disparaged the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as “a low IQ pervert and sex abuser.”

Kuhn-Fricker’s mother, Janet Kuhn, has said her daughter told her she thought Giampa was trying to indoctrinate the 16-year-old with white-supremacist ideas.

Members of Giampa’s family have said he was no racist and instead posted the tweets to provoke people online. They said he struggled with isolation and depression. Giampa was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2021, after his brain injury.

According to the unsealed police report, after the 16-year-old told her parents she would end the relationship, she still would meet with Giampa secretly in her bedroom from about 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. The parents had forbidden Giampa from entering their home, but their daughter gave him the code to unlock the front door, the police report says.

When the teens were discovered by the parents in the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 2017, they refused to open the bedroom door, until they heard attempts to remove the lock from the outside, the police report says.

Giampa removed a gun from his bag, shot Fricker and then shot Kuhn-Fricker, each multiple times, police alleged. In denying a request for bond in July, Kassabian said the attack Giampa is accused of carrying out included an “execution-type kill shot to the back of the head.”

The report from Craig Guyton, who was a county police detective, says Giampa and the girl then went to another room to carry out their suicide pact. Giampa first tried to shoot the girl but the gun did not fire, police said. He then shot himself, the report says.

Giampa’s public defender, Dawn Butorac, declined to comment.

Another public defender for Giampa, Kasey H. McNamara, wrote in a court filing that a search warrant covering his home and electronic devices “returned social media posts, chats, and photographs which depict imagery or discuss issues involving neo-Nazi-related groups such as the Atomwaffen Division.”

“In several emails, Mrs. Fricker accused Mr. Giampa of using social media to post neo-Nazi content and alleged he committed other acts in furtherance of spreading messages from these organizations,” McNamara wrote in the May 20 court filing, adding that Giampa had been charged previously in juvenile court with child pornography offenses — and that the tweets, Kuhn-Fricker’s emails with allegations about Giampa, and his delinquent adjudication on child pornography charges would be too prejudicial to admit as evidence in the double-murder case.

“The fact that the decedents disapproved of Mr. Giampa and did not want him to be in a relationship with their daughter is sufficient for the Commonwealth to try to establish a motive without introducing any alleged associations with neo-Nazi organizations,” McNamara wrote. “Introducing Mrs. Fricker’s emails and evidence of her beliefs about Mr. Giampa’s associations with neo-Nazi organizations would be highly prejudicial against Mr. Giampa. Moreover, allegations that Mr. Giampa was associated with these groups is tangential and speculative at best.”

The prosecution argued that the neo-Nazi postings were what drove the couple to urge their daughter to break up with Giampa and that those allegations were “highly probative as to Defendant’s motive, intent, and state of mind when he killed Mr. and Mrs. Fricker.”

They cited another Virginia trial court’s decision to admit into evidence an image of Hitler that James Alex Fields Jr., who killed one woman and injured 35 other people when he plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, had texted to his mother.

“The court concluded that … the picture of Adolf Hitler had probative value and was highly relevant as Fields’ intent, motive, and state of mind were at issue in the case,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing June 3. “Similar to Fields, Defendant’s intent, motive, and state of mind will be at issue in this case.”

Fields was sentenced in Virginia to life in prison without possibility of parole, plus 419 years. He then received another life sentence for federal hate crimes.

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