By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - The lawyer for a Montana man accused of fatally shooting a German exchange student in his garage abruptly cancel led a Germany vs USA World Cup soccer screening party on Thursday after a judge called it a publicity stunt.
Markus Kaarma is charged with deliberate homicide in the death of 17-year-old Diren Dede of Hamburg in a case expected to test the state's "castle doctrine" self-defense law. Authorities say the teen was killed while "garage hopping" in Missoula in a possible search for alcohol.
German officials have expressed outrage at the killing and the teen's father suggested to a German news agency that U.S. gun culture was at least partly to blame for his son's death.
Paul Ryan, the lawyer for Kaarma, said his sponsoring of a live community screening at a park in Missoula of the World Cup match, which Germany won 1-0, was not tied to the case.
"Due to the unintended reaction to us sponsoring a free viewing party ... we are canceling the event," Ryan said in a statement. "We apologize for any emotional distress this may have caused members of this community."
The cancellation came after the judge in the case expressed concern during a Wednesday court hearing that the screening was akin to a publicity stunt.
"He asked me to knock it off, essentially," Ryan said in an interview on Thursday, adding that his office routinely sponsors public and charity events for Missoula and the viewing party was planned in the same spirit.
Authorities say Dede, who played soccer for a club in Germany and at the Missoula high school where he was an exchange student, was "garage hopping" in a possible search for alcohol the night in April when he was shot and killed.
Kaarma, a 29-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter, has pleaded not guilty and in a trial set for January will invoke a state self-defense law that allows use of force to defend against a home invasion if the occupants reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent an assault on them or their property.
Hamburg authorities last month opened a parallel investigation into the shooting death under a German law that allows prosecution in that country for a crime committed abroad against one of its citizens.