Swiss court overturns verdict against U.S. hockey player Kevin Miller

The Zurich superior court overturned a lower court decision and stressed that criminal law should be applied with caution in sports cases. On Sept. 22, 2005, the district court in Zurich had sentenced Miller, an American who has since moved back to the United States, to three months imprisonment for reckless bodily harm on Andrew McKim, a Saint John, N.B., native playing for Zurich team ZSC Lions.

Miller was also ordered to cover court costs of 14,000 Swiss francs (C$13,300) and pay McKim damages and legal costs of 15,000 francs (C$14,300).

Miller had also been declared fully liable for the injuries, which could have forced him to pay millions to McKim in the future.

Prosecutors said Miller hit McKim so hard from behind with an elbow check that the Canadian fell and hit his head on the ice, suffering skull-brain trauma and neck injuries.

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Both the prosecutors and Miller’s lawyer appealed the district court’s decision to the superior court of the canton (state) of Zurich, which decided Friday to acquit the American of his sentence and penalty.

The three-judge panel said expert testimony cast doubt on the theory that Miller’s check was the cause of the fall. The judges also stressed that it was inappropriate to use a criminal procedure in this case.

“One could ban the entire sport of ice hockey after a guilty verdict,” said presiding judge Christoph Spiess.

The panel ruled that Miller, who now works as a financial consultant, should be paid 64,000 francs (C$60,000) in legal costs and 16,000 francs (C$15,240) in other compensation by the state.