Algerian man, 1st to stand trial in Germany NYE sex assaults, is cleared

The 26-year-old Algerian man being led into the courtroom in Cologne.

The 26-year-old Algerian man being led into the courtroom in Cologne.  (Marius Becker/dpa via AP)

An Algerian man who was accused of being part of a group that groped a woman in Cologne on New Year's Eve was cleared Friday of attempted sexual assault, though he was convicted of handling stolen goods.

The 26-year-old was the first person to go on trial for a sexual offense after the New Year events in Cologne that heightened tensions over Germany's migrant influx.

However, the victim of the assault didn't recognize him and the Cologne regional court ruled there was no proof that the man was part of the group of alleged assailants, news agency dpa reported.

More than 1,000 criminal complaints were filed over the crimes in Cologne, blamed largely on foreigners, with several hundred alleging sexual offenses. Several suspects already have been convicted of theft.

The suspect, whose name hasn't been released in keeping with German privacy rules, was accused of being in a group of around 10 men who surrounded and groped a woman in the central train station, and of stealing her cellphone. He also was charged with attempted theft over a Dec. 13 incident in which he and another man were accused of trying to break into a car.

The woman's cellphone was found on the suspect, but he said he had bought it from an acquaintance.

The defendant was convicted of handling stolen goods and of the attempted car break-in, and was given a six-month suspended sentence.